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National Security Insiders Poll / INSIDERS POLL

Insiders: Israel Will Attack Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011.(AP Photo/Uriel Sinai)

photo of Sara Sorcher
October 9, 2012

Two-thirds of National Journal's National Security Insiders believe Israel will attack Iran to try to derail its nuclear program, but they are divided over whether military action would take place in the coming months or at a later date.

Speculation abounds over whether the Jewish state may strike, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently called upon the United Nations General Assembly to draw a clear "red line" to stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. While President Obama has insisted that no option is off the table to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the administration has so far advocated for a strategy of tougher sanctions and diplomatic pressure.

"If the U.S. strategy in 2013 does not produce noticeable changes in Iran's behavior," one Insider said, "then either Israel will convince the U.S. to strike (their preferred option) or they will go it alone (and the U.S. will share in the consequences)."

 

Other Insiders believed an Israeli attack is imminent. "The drums of war are beating louder and louder, and the Israelis are concerned they are running out of time to mount an effective attack on the Iranian nuclear program," one Insider said. "The Israelis have lost the element of surprise but believe their nation's existence is threatened by the Iranian program, thus making it likely they will strike Iran in the coming months."

Israel will strike soon, because time is not on its side, another Insider said. "Those who think a nuclear Iran can be deterred don't live in Jerusalem."

One-third of Insiders did not think Israel would attack Iran. "With the help of his U.S. supporters, Netanyahu's strategy all along has been to try [to] bully the Obama administration into waging war against Iran on Israel's behalf," one Insider said. "Fortunately, Obama resisted the pressure, leaving Israel with the prospect of confronting Iran alone. As a result, Netanyahu, despite all of his saber-rattling and chest-beating, will back down, preferring a war of hot air to one of hot lead."

The political window for an attack is before the U.S. presidential elections, one Insider said. "Netanyahu doesn't have a political consensus at home in favor of an attack, so he is unlikely to follow through during what remains of that window."

Another Insider said such a strike was unlikely because many Israeli military leaders oppose it, and it could be effective only if complemented by a U.S. strike or substantial American intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. "A strike against Iran would undermine broader U.S. interests by embittering many Arabs and some Iranians,” the Insider said. "The best Western strategy is to back political opponents in Iran and pursue regime change. Even if it were ever possible, it is too late now to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

1. Will Israel attack Iran to try and derail its nuclear program?

(52 votes)

  • Yes, eventually 48%
  • Yes, probably in the coming months 19%
  • No 33%

Yes, eventually:

"I wish the answer were 'no,' but the political cost of not attacking may eventually reach the point where it is greater than the actual cost of the inevitable response."

"Probably, but not for sure. Also, the U.S.-Israel relationship is so pathological that Bibi might be able to chain-gang us into doing it."

"The U.S. has made itself over the decades supine and hostage to extreme Zionists and the Israelis know it. It's a matter of time."

"If the U.S. strategy in 2013 does not produce noticeable changes in Iran's behavior, then either Israel will convince the U.S. to strike (their preferred option) or they will go it alone (and the U.S. will share in the consequences)."

Yes, probably in the coming months:

"October to March remains the expectation in the [Gulf Cooperation Council]. No reason to think otherwise. U.S. military buildup in the Gulf is unsustainable—we are at a 'use it or lose it' moment. And based on the current agreement with Israel of no participation or coordination in a preemptive strike but assured defense in case of Iranian retaliation, the first Shahab [missile] into Tel Aviv means the U.S. just bought itself offensive action against Iran."

"Obama's behavior has made the Israelis even less confident of American support."

"The drums of war are beating louder and louder, and the Israelis are concerned they are running out of time to mount an effective attack on the Iranian nuclear program. The Israelis have lost the element of surprise but believe their nation's existence is threatened by the Iranian program, thus making it likely they will strike Iran in the coming months."

"Israel will strike soon—time is not on its side. Those who think a nuclear Iran can be deterred don't live in Jerusalem."

No:

"Israel is quite unlikely to strike before the elections. After the elections, assuming there is no deal with Tehran, a U.S. strike is quite likely, regardless of who the next president is."

"Israel does not have the capacity to conduct the sustained attack needed to destroy the Iranian nuclear program."

"High political-military risk with questionable payoff."

"U.S. will hold their hand."

"The political window for an attack is between now and the U.S. election on Nov. 6. Netanyahu doesn't have a political consensus at home in favor of an attack, so he is unlikely to follow through during what remains of that window."

"With the help of his U.S. supporters, Netanyahu's strategy all along has been to try [to] bully the Obama administration into waging war against Iran on Israel's behalf. Fortunately, Obama resisted the pressure, leaving Israel with the prospect of confronting Iran alone. As a result, Netanyahu, despite all of his saber-rattling and chest-beating, will back down, preferring a war of hot air to one of hot lead."

"Too many Israeli military leaders oppose it, and a strike could be effective only if complemented by a U.S. strike or supported by substantial U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and logistics. But a strike against Iran would undermine broader U.S. interests by embittering many Arabs and some Iranians. The best Western strategy is to back political opponents in Iran and pursue regime change. Even if it were ever possible, it is too late now to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

National Journal’s National Security Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of defense and foreign-policy experts.

They are:

National Security Insiders Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Thad Allen, James Bamford, David Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Samuel “Sandy” Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Kit Bond, Stuart Bowen, Paula Broadwell, Mike Breen, Steven Bucci, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Wendy Chamberlin, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Robert Danin, Richard Danzig, Paul Eaton, Andrew Exum, William Fallon, Eric Farnsworth, Jacques Gansler, Stephen Ganyard, Daniel Goure, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, Jim Harper, Michael Hayden, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Paul Hughes, Colin Kahl, Donald Kerrick, Rachel Kleinfeld, Lawrence Korb, David Kramer, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, James Lindsay, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kevin Nealer, Michael Oates, Thomas Pickering, Paul Pillar, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Rotenberg, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Matthew Sherman, Jennifer Sims, Constanze Stelzenmüller, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Suzanne Spaulding, Ted Stroup, Tamara Wittes, Dov Zakheim, and Juan Zarate.

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