Israeli strike on Iran just a matter of time?

Despite all diplomatic efforts the US has undertaken to dissuade Israel from striking Iranian nuclear facilities, the attack now seems virtually inevitable.

In light of Israel’s recent military preparations, it can only be a matter of when.

The recent visit of Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Jerusalem only proved Israel is determined to act, taking “no option” off the table regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

“This is our position. We mean it,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, pointing out at the same time that the current priority should be diplomacy.

When it comes to the US mediating role, diplomats appear to have used up their tools.

“Mr. Obama has no new strategic thinking on Iran. He vaguely promises to offer the country the carrot of diplomacy – followed by an empty threat of sanctions down the road if Iran does not comply with US requests. This is precisely the European Union’s approach, which has failed for over six years,” American diplomat John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN, wrote in the aftermath of the meeting in The Wall Street Journal. “There is no reason Iran would suddenly now bow to Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts, especially after its embarrassing election in June.”

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Calling the outcome of Gates’ visit to Israel “polite but inconclusive”, Bolton says, “It will be no surprise if Israel strikes by the year’s end.”

Indeed, recent actions from the Jewish state – including long-range air force maneuvers and the recent movement of Israeli warships and submarines through the Suez Canal – are eloquent enough.

As for Iran, it shows no sign of halting its nuclear ambitions. Rejecting calls to curb its uranium enrichment, it continues to insist the program is for legitimate energy needs. This makes Israel believe that, in just a few months, Tehran will produce enough uranium for a warhead. However, Western intelligence has put that capability several years away.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has put up to 40,000 rockets on the Israeli-Lebanese border and is training its forces to use ground-to-ground missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv, The Times reports.

“Hezbollah’s rearming is in the name of resistance against Israel. The real reason, however, probably has more to do with its ally Iran. If Israel carries out its threat to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, the main retaliation is likely to come from Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the British newspaper writes in its online edition.

However, Amos Harel from the Israeli online edition of Haaretz.com does not deem a military conflict with Lebanon possible under the current circumstances:

“It will be exceedingly difficult to rally international support for a Third Lebanon War, particularly if it were to erupt over surface-to-air missiles, which are already today deployed in Syria. And if a confrontation erupts between Israel and Iran, Israel is unlikely to ignite a secondary front that would divert resources from the main theater,” Harel believes.

Whether or not Tel Aviv considers the Lebanese option “it could be that Israel is indeed accelerating its preparations for a strike, out of a circumspect reading of the situation and a growing belief that Washington will not come to its aid,” concludes Amos Harel.