(MENAFN - Arab News) Just about every political pundit and politician in the world is mulling the advisability of an all-out US/Israel war with Iran. Opinions vary widely.
Russian Prime Minister Vladamir Putin recently predicted that to strike Iran's nuclear facilities would result in "catastrophic" consequences. "The West has gotten carried away trying to punish some nations," he said. "It reaches out for sanctions or even a military club at the drop of a hat."
Jimmy Carter's former adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski believes any such strike will be detrimental to US interests. "We have to make that very clear to our Israeli friends. We're not going to war," Brzezinski told CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Saturday.
"They're not going to war by flying over our airspace over Iraq. We're not going to support them. If they do it, they will be on their own. The consequences will be theirs, because the price we'll all pay if they start a massive war, which the Iranians interpret as being done with our connivance, will be disastrous for us in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the terms of oil, stability in the Middle East more generally."
The word is that President Barack Obama is attempting to hold Israel back from igniting a conflict that would inevitably draw in the US and its allies, which isn't going down too well in Israel's corridors of power - although this could be a "good cop, bad cop" scenario. His reluctance to embrace a military option is leaving him vulnerable to attack by leading Republican presidential wannabes who are painting the president as weak on security.
Mitt Romney has been scaremongering, saying Iran could provide fissile material to Hezbollah and Hamas, which could disseminate it around Latin America and even bring it into the US to explode dirty bombs. Romney asserts that the Obama administration's sanctions against Iran's Central Bank aren't sufficiently crippling and criticized America's commander-in-chief for not letting Tehran know that military options are not just on the table they are in our hand."
Rick Santorum has accused Obama for "throwing Israel under a bus" over Iran due to US oil-dependency - and went a ridiculous step too far by saying Obama is actively assisting Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Newt Gingrich promised to support a preemptive strike were Israel's prime minister "haunted by the history of the Holocaust" would ask for his backing.
No wonder the American Jewish billionaire casino magnet Sheldon Adelson has given 11 million to Gingrich's super-PAC and says he may donate 100 million more. Adelson's foundation has paid 100 million to finance American Jewish youth visits to Israel and given 25 million to the Yad Veshem Holocaust remembrance authority. And it's little wonder that Brzezinski has characterized the Republican frontrunners as "embarrassing." This type of financial interference in US elections add grist to the mill of "conspiracy theorists" that believe the US government is driven by Tel Aviv, putting Zionist interests before those of its own country.
Moreover, former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan insists that even if Iran were developing a nuclear arms capability its efforts wouldn't come to fruition before 2018. Dagan argued that strikes on Iran wouldn't halt the program; on the contrary, it would encourage the Iranians to pursue a nuclear deterrent - and "Israel would pay a terrible, unbearable price." He anticipates Iran and Syria raining missiles on Israel from north to south, killing thousands. "How can we defend ourselves against such an attack? I have no answer to that," he said.
Saber-rattling against Iran from Tel Aviv and Washington has been ongoing for years but until comparatively recently Tehran took a laid-back stance, not so today when Israel is covertly attempting to sabotage its nuclear sites. In 2010, the Stuxnet Internet worm affected 1,600 Iranian computers including those which control nuclear centrifuges. Stuxnet, believed to have emanated from Israel, has been purged but a new intelligence-gathering virus called Duqu has hit Iran.
It is thought, too, that Israel in collaboration with the Iranian militant organization Mujahedin-e-Khalq was responsible for the blast at an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps base that killed 17 - and Tehran is certain that the Mossad is behind the assassination of four of its nuclear scientists during a two-year period, all killed due to a bomb being placed under their vehicles. Strangest of all, is the lead front page story in most Israeli newspapers on Monday quoting an e-mail from Stratfor, a US global security firm, leaked by WikiLeaks. The e-mail cites an Israeli intelligence source as contending that Israel has been working with Kurdish rebels and Iranian Jews who immigrated to Israel to destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
Iran has finally got the message. It has been dangerously backed into a corner with threats and subversive acts. Its rulers are no longer disposed to let the chips fall where they may. Last Tuesday, the Deputy Chief of Iran's Armed Forces Gen. Mohammad Hejazi issued this warning: "Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran's national interestswe will act without waiting for their actions".
In other words, Tehran may strike first. Indeed, it has already shown its willingness to do just that by cutting off oil exports to France and the UK in answer to EU sanctions against its oil industry set to come into force in June. At the same time, it has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to shipping, warned off US warships in the Gulf and has carried out military and naval exercises in the area. It's also possible that Tehran is responsible for attempts on the lives of Israeli diplomats in Thailand, India and Georgia, as payback for the killing of its scientists.
The one crucial fact that is being entirely overlooked is this. A National Intelligence Estate drawn-up by 16 US intelligence agencies states Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, which confirms a similar view by the same agencies in 2007 that Iran ceased its nuclear WMD program as long ago as 2003. For their part, Iran's leadership denies it has any intention to develop a bomb, which, they say, would be a violation of the Muslim faith. The tragic thing is that if American intelligence is factual, the region - and potentially world powers - could be embroiled in a conflagration over something that doesn't exist which is exactly what happened in 2003 when the US led its allies into Iraq. It's time that US, Israeli and Iranian leaders quit acting like small boys playing with matches, risking ordinary people's lives and livelihoods yet again. They should do what grown-ups are expected to do - sit around a table and talk.