Whenever American experts talk about Iran, it inevitably leads to a heated debate on the risks [involved in] an Israeli air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The majority of [American experts] believe that Israel will not undertake such an operation without first consulting the US. But some feel that sour relations between [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the Obama administration could embolden Israel to act unilaterally. Is such a risk likely now? The US’s preoccupation with its [upcoming] elections and the continued prominence of the Jewish lobby in the US serve to bolster Netanyahu’s position. This is why Washington is restless. We have to assess Obama’s recent move to ratchet up economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran from this angle.
When you look at this issue from the perspective of the US, one thing clear: A unilateral Israeli attack against Iran will be a disaster of epic proportions for four reasons.
First, whether the U.S. likes it or not, all of the anti-American forces in the Middle East will hold Washington responsible. Saudi Arabia, among others, is constantly reminding the Obama administration of this reality. One gets the feeling that they are telling Washington: “If Israel does it, everyone will accuse you and we will be in a tight spot. Do it yourself and hit Iran without waiting for Israel.”This, in any case, is what has been revealed by Wikileaks.
Second, an Israeli attack on Iran will have indisputable negative effects on the process of democratic change we call the Arab Spring. For Washington, the most promising aspect of the Arab revolutions that took place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and now Syria was the absence of conditioned anti-American reflexes. The millions in Tahrir Square were not concerned with the US, but rather with Mubarak's police state. It was not foreign policy but rather domestic political dynamics that nurtured the revolutions. While democratic popular movements are struggling with their authoritarian regimes, they will suddenly be overcome by a new wave of anti-American and anti-Israel sentiment. Only the forces of the status quo stand to benefit from this.
Third will be the Iranian response. Iran will retaliate. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza will launch missile attacks that could drag the entire region into war. Iran itself can launch missiles into Israel and can do everything possible to strike at Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. There could even be a confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Similarly, Iranian-Turkish relations could reach a boiling point because of the NATO missile system radars and Turkey’s NATO membership.
Fourth, and last, will be oil prices. Even the Iranian naval exercises at Hormuz caused an increase in oil prices. Should Israel attack Iran, and war scenarios become realities, oil prices will double or triple. The effects of this on the barely recovering American economy should be enough to cause the Obama administration to lose sleep. For these reasons, an Israeli attack on Iran would be a nightmare for Washington. We have to keep in mind that this is an election year in the US, and Israel wants Obama to lose.
Turkey should be assessing these factors very carefully, as they will determine its own policy on Iran. The most radical [set of] economic and financial sanctions yet planned by the Western alliance are on their way. These anti-Iran economic sanctions are the products of an American strategy developed as an alternative to war. Iran may not change [the course of] its nuclear policy under this pressure; but the pressure remains vital to reining in Israel. Turkey, for the sake of peace in the region, should give its maximum support to these economic sanctions.