If Israel decides to strike a blow to prevent Iran from joining the nuclear arms club, the United States may be just as surprised as anyone.
According to reports Monday, Israeli officials have lost confidence in the Obama administration when it comes to keeping Iran, which has repeatedly pledged to blow Israel off the map at the first viable opportunity, from acquiring nuclear weaponry capable of reaching and devastating Israel.
A U.S. intelligence official on Monday told The Associated Press that Israeli officials have decided that the United States would not get a heads-up before any military strike against Iran is launched. Apparently the final straw for Israeli officials was a visit from U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who left them convinced that the United States has no intention of taking any military action against Iran or support a unilateral military strike by Israel.
That U.S. military action is apparently off the table has Israeli officials concerned. Their country is the one that would be in a nuclear Iran's crosshairs, not the United States.
Iran proclaims that its nuclear enrichment program is for peaceful purposes of energy creation, though there is more reason to doubt Tehran's word on this than to believe it. The International Atomic Energy Agency has already pointed to issues with the program that indicate its purpose is to craft a nuclear weapon and a missile capable of delivering it.
In fact, Iran is almost certainly utilizing North Korea's old playbook. Promise to allow inspections, renege on those promises, delay, posture, make claims of peace, make more promises, renege on those ... until you get your nuclear weapons ready. Those stall tactics worked for North Korea and if Iran is allowed to utilize the same tactics unabated, they will work for Tehran, too.
After wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be difficult to impossible to generate public support for any type of U.S. military action in Iran. From that standpoint, the Obama administration is taking a practical approach. But if Iran is to be deterred by sanctions alone, the U.S. and the United Nations are going to have to be much more aggressive in their imposition and severity. In essence, Iran must find the costs too great to continue down this path toward destabilization.
Meanwhile, our primary ally in the Middle East realizes just how exposed its people are to a menace that could be launched by a regime that has proven time and again that it has no consideration of human rights and has repeatedly noted that "Destroy Israel" is indelibly inked at the top of its to-do list.
The only way to put this in perspective for Americans is to look back at the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Soviet Union and the U.S. were in the middle of the Cold War and the Soviets were arming Cuba with nuclear missiles capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. The U.S. blockaded Cuba and for 13 days the world was on the brink of nuclear war. Negotiations, however, prevailed. The Soviets pulled their weaponry out of Cuba under U.N. inspection; the U.S. dismantled long-range missiles it had placed in Italy and Turkey a few years earlier and agreed to not invade or attack Cuba.
Anyone who lived through that period in the U.S. has an idea of what Israelis would have to look forward to if Iran's military program gains nuclear capability.
At some point, either Iran will abandon its nuclear weapons program or it will continue and Israel will launch a pre-emptive attack, with or without the blessings of America. Either case could plunge the region into violence with worldwide repercussions.
There is, however, still time for the rest of the world to intercede, to come up with a solution.
But the clock is ticking.