Ha’aretz’s Ari Shavit poses the following hypothetical:
In November, after Senator Barack Obama becomes president-elect of the United States, outgoing president George W. Bush inflicts a severe blow on Iran. That could take the form of a naval siege, the flexing of American military muscle, or even an all-out air strike targeting Iran’s nuclear program. Under ordinary circumstances, people would reject out of hand such a wild scenario. The American public does not support the idea of opening a second front in the Middle East, and America’s political, military and intelligence establishments are fearful. A military move, even a semi-military one, carried out by an outgoing president would be unprecedented and illegitimate; it would be perceived as the final insane trumpet call of a thoroughly off-the-wall administration with a committed religious outlook.
He thinks that this scenario may have “little likelihood” of happening, but, he adds, “little likelihood is not zero likelihood.”
The upshot of confronting Iran? Shavit writes:
In the long run, such a wild scenario would be good for Israel just as it would be good for America. A nuclear Iran would endanger Israel’s survival, Middle Eastern stability and the West’s well-being. On the other hand, an Iran deprived of its nuclear weapons would ensure both Israel’s future and a stable Middle East and would allow the West to continue maintaining its values and lifestyle for a considerable period of time. However, in the short run, this wild scenario is fraught with danger. There could be a serious intelligence blunder; there could be a serious military blunder. In any event, the Iran of the ayatollahs is a power with a religiously committed leadership; it is very clever and powerful. If pushed into a corner, it might prefer to go out with a bang. Nobody today can say for sure what would be the nature and intensity of such a bang.
Hat tip: JTA’s Uriel Heilman, who thinks this scenario ain’t gonna happen.