It is difficult to imagine Israel attacking Iran.
It is, however, more difficult to imagine Israel not attacking Iran.
Consider three questions:
First, does Iran mean what it says about destroying Israel? When its leaders repeatedly call for Israel's annihilation, after referring to it as a cancer and using other rhetoric not heard on a national level since the Nazi regime's depiction of Jews, is this just rhetorical flourish? Or do they really hope and plan to destroy Israel?
Second, can Iran do it? One can hope and even plan to do something outrageous, but that does not necessarily mean that one can accomplish it. So, the second question is whether Iran can destroy Israel or at least murder a high enough percentage of its population and destroy enough of its infrastructure to enable surrounding Arab states to invade and do the rest of the job that the majority of Arabs favor (even if some of their governments have a peace treaty with Israel).
It seems to me that the answers to the first two questions are so obvious that any burden of proof rests on those who argue otherwise. Do they think Iranian leaders are bluffing? Why would these leaders bluff? And why would one think they are bluffing given their faith-based hatred of Israel? I write "faith-based" not to argue that Islam necessarily demands the destruction of the Jewish state, but because that is what the Iranian leaders believe Islam demands.
Iran is ruled by people who believe it is God's will to destroy the Jewish state. It is also a country rapidly acquiring the ability to use nuclear weapons to achieve this goal -- through direct attack, handing nuclear weapons to terrorists or both.
There has never been a hatred as deep as Jew-hatred nor is there one today. And hatred of the Jewish state is similarly unparalleled. The depth of Iran's hatred for Israel was made evident again last week in a story from the Olympic swim trials in Croatia. The Iranian government ordered its athlete not to participate when it learned that one of the other swimmers was a Jew from Israel. There are no nationals other than Israeli Jews with whom nationals of another nation would refuse to enter a swimming pool.
This unique hatred explains why the forms of deterrence that have worked in the past do not seem applicable to the Iranian regime. The most obvious one, the one that rendered nuclear war highly improbable during the Cold War, was MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. MAD was so simple a child could understand it: You bomb me; I bomb you. Our people die en masse; your people die en masse. No matter how vile the Soviet regime was, MAD worked because Soviet leaders wanted to live.
But MAD works only with the sane.
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