Decision makers in Israel believe they must attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before President Bush leaves office if they’re to count on even middling support from the U.S.
But David Owen, former British foreign secretary, says the U.S. should go so far as to use its air power to prevent an Israeli strike.
Writing an opinion piece in the London Times, Owen — who served from 1977 to 1979 — declared: “In the past 40 years there have been few occasions when I have been more concerned about a specific conflict escalating to involve, economically, the whole world.”
Former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, currently a deputy prime minister, has said that if Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, “we will attack.”
But Owen referred to a report last month claiming that Bush in May refused to give Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert the green light to attack Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities, believing that Iran would see the U.S. behind such an attack and would retaliate.
In fact, the Bush administration’s statements warning Israel against an attack could be an attempt to prevent Iran from blaming the U.S. if Israel does attack, notes Joel Brinkley of the McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
One likely Iranian response to an Israeli attack would be to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil exports pass. A single oil tanker sunk in the narrow strait could halt shipping for months, and shippers would find it impossible to secure insurance even if the U.S. cleared mines, he observed.
“The Revolutionary Guards are committed to a war against Israel and prepared, in the process, to take on the rest of the world,” Owen wrote.
“They will be suicide soldiers, seamen and airmen. If Iran is attacked, Russian and China will supply it with arms.”
In the aftermath of an Israeli attack and Iranian retaliation, the U.S. military “would be bound to follow Bush’s orders. The president-designate or, if before the election, the two candidates, would be wary of criticizing him. It is imperative that voices are raised in America and Europe to warn Israel off unilateral action against Iran.”
Bush should take dramatic diplomatic action to prevent a war with Iran and “should publicly warn Israel that the United States will use its air power to prevent it bombing Iran, while announcing that he is sending [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice to start negotiating a grand bargain whereby all sanctions would be lifted if Iran forgoes the nuclear weapons option.”
Those negotiations “would give his successor, as president, time to consider all the options” and “would be a last act of real statesmanship from Bush, who is otherwise destined to end his term a miserable failure.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton believes, however, that Iran will consider the U.S. responsible if Israel does attack, no matter what the administration has said.
He told Brinkley: “So if the U.S. is going to be blamed anyway, we ought to go ahead and assist them.”
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