Mere months after the United States’ withdrawal from combative functions in Iraq, the omens of war once again hang thick over the Middle East.
A potentially devastating conflict between Iran and Israel is on the brink of becoming reality, as Israel announced last week that it would commence military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities if the country continues to ignore demands to abandon its nuclear pursuits.
Benjamin Netanyahu, current Prime Minister of Israel, claims that Israel will begin mounting an attack by June of this year unless Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismantles the nuclear program immediately.
Tehran, which insists that its nuclear aspirations are strictly energy driven, rebuffed the efforts of IAEA investigators yesterday to carry out inspections and calm international tensions. The U.N. watchdog group sought to inspect numerous nuclear sites believed to house warheads, but were refused access by Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
Such reticence to cooperate in the face of looming conflict, coupled with a strong resistance to international sanctions and a recent oil embargo on European countries, has driven Israel to clarify its intentions with regards to military action. The declaration has been met with near-unanimous denunciation from the international community including the United States, Israel’s largest and most supportive military ally. The U.S. has suggested prudence from Israel, asserting that hasty actions would only further entrench an aggressive Iran. Russia claimed yesterday that a military strike against the country would be “catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations.”
Iran, in turn, has threatened to pre-empt any perceived endangerment to its nuclear program with military action of its own. Mohammad Hejazi, deputy head of Iran’s armed forces, stated earlier this week, “Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran’s national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions.”
Commissioning the creation of cyber protection force, strengthening anti-aircraft defenses around its nuclear sites, and staging war games codenamed “God’s Vengeance,” the country has made clear that it will attack key U.S. and Israel interests in the region if it feels threatened, though the likelihood of such an action on Iran’s part is small in the context of the U.S.’s regional presence.
Several U.S. warships patrol the waters adjacent to Iran’s borders, and Iran recently gave its own show of force by sending two warships to aid Syria’s Assad regime. In the event of an all-out missile war with Iran, it is likely that the United States, given its proximity to Iran and relationship with Israel, will choose to engage as well.
Such a war would not only present a humanitarian catastrophe in Iran and economic degradation on a global scale, but may also have mortal implications in the U.S. and around the world – Israel’s threats come after two Iranian bombers struck Israeli embassies in Georgia and India last week.