Israeli Roulette

Is Netanyahu serious about bombing Iran?


Israeli Roulette
by Trita Parsi

Should the latest episode of Israeli calls for bombing Iran be taken seriously, or is it – like the many cases prior to it – yet another (politically motivated) false alarm? Like clockwork, Israeli alarm bells have gone off in the past fifteen years with predictable regularity. Bellicose statements by Israeli officials have been followed by alarmist analyses describing military measures as both necessary and inevitable. And then, without any explanation, the bellicosity recedes and Iran and Israel return to their more normal levels of animosity.

By now, as WikiLeaks documents show, U.S. officials tend to view the Israeli threats as a pressure tactic to get the United States and Europe to adopt tougher measures against Iran, and to refrain from any compromise with Tehran over the nuclear issue. These intense periods of Israeli warnings about its imminent intent to bomb Iran have indeed tended to coincide with times when the international community has been debating additional sanctions on Tehran.

This latest call for war is no different.

Next week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to publish a report expected to detail evidence on the Iranian government's suspected past weaponization activities. The Obama administration and the French government have pushed the IAEA to take a tougher line against Tehran. The IAEA report will be followed by a U.S.-EU push for harsher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council, where Western powers will meet stiff resistance from Russia and China.

The Obama administration has also launched a campaign to report the Iranian government to the Security Council due to its alleged attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Here again, the aim is to convince a skeptical international community to go along with new sanctions.

For Israel, the tactic of threatening war to secure sanctions has been a gift that never stops giving. The Israelis press the U.S. and the European Union to opt for more sanctions by arguing that absent new punitive measures, Israel will be "forced" to strike Iran unilaterally. Washington then uses the Israeli threat to press Russia,China and the rest of the international community to adopt new sanctions topreserve the peace. The choice is, the tactic dictates, between sanctions and war; not between confrontation and diplomacy.

To retain some minimal level of credibility, each new round of saber rattling contains new elements to set it apart from previous episodes. This time around, the narrative reads that intense debates are taking place within the Israeli cabinet between proponents and opponents of unilateral Israeli strikes. What are supposed to be confidential, internal deliberations have now been leaked to the public and the whole world can follow the debate over war and peace unfold like a bizarre reality TV show.

While skepticism about Israel’s saber rattling is warranted, it is also dangerous to completely dismiss it out of hand. At a minimum, there are two important factors that indicate the past pattern of empty threats may be changing.

First, stiff resistance from the U.S. military has in the past forced Israel to think twice about any unilateral strike against Iran. Pentagon officials believe that Iran will not differentiate between an American and an Israeli attack. As such, Israeli military strikes will beget significant Iranian retaliation against American targets. In July 2008, in the midst of a massive Israeli effort to convince former President George W. Bush to attack Iran before he left office, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned that an Israeli strike on Iran would prove "extremely stressful" for U.S. forces in the region. "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable," he cautioned.

But with President Barack Obama in election mode, Benjamin Netanyahu may sense an opening. At a time when the Republicans are attacking Obama for being insensitive to Israeli interests, Obama cannot afford another confrontation with Netanyahu. In spite of the danger Israel would put U.S. troops under if it attacked Iran, Obama’s ability to exact a political price on Israel for doing so is currently limited.

Second, as I document in A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press, 2012), sanctions and military action are not either-or options in Israel’s view. Rather, they are complementary. While sanctions systematically weaken Iran and reduce its capabilities, including its ability to muster nuclear advances, military action is needed to push back Iran if it reachesimportant nuclear milestones, in Israel’s view. Sanctions can slow down Iran’s nuclear advances, but military action can set the nuclear program back, albeit only temporarily. Alone, neither approach is satisfactory for Israel. Only when the two are combined will the Jewish state feel confident that the balance of power is securely locked in its favor.

But with Washington having little left to sanction in Iran, and Israel’s credibility reaching a new low as a result of its many false alarms, how much longer can this game of brinkmanship and sable rattling be pursued before it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy?

First published in CNN's

Dr. Trita Parsi is President of the National Iranian American Counci and the author of Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States. Dr. Parsi will be releasing his upcoming book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama's Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press), early 2012.


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by Fred on

Trying to mesh together the Islamist Rapists with Iranians and or the religion of Islam has been tried and failed by others; you are a beginner to this arena as well.

Islamist Rapist Republic rapes Iranian men, women and children; it is matter of fact not sound bites.


VPK: I assure you...

by Bavafa on

If a military attack takes place on Iran and a war breaks out, all your condition minus the first one is pretty much guaranteed to happen.  The West and its allies, specially Israel have proven without a shadow of doubt that they are not for democratic system in ME if it does not go fully in line with their policies and wishes.They have proven not only in past but also in recent years to shun democratically elected governments in ME when it was not in their favor.


'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 


Hafez for Beginners

"Islamist Rapists" - how mature.

by Hafez for Beginners on

"Islamist Rapists": is really insulting "Fred." 78 Million Iranians are predominently Moslem - like it or not. To what extent they practice it, to what extent it is warranted to not have a separation of "church and state" - well, those are all issues worthy of discussion. 

But assiging "Rapists" to an entire religion, is immature, bigotted and disappointing:  Personally, I am more "spiritual" than "religious" - but respecting people's religious beliefs, is key to human survival on this planet. You have an issue with "religion and governance", fine. But throwing around "Islamist Rapists" is pure bigotry.

This article seems intelligent: I won't comment further than that, given people on this site will start labeling you. Write something intelligent, opposing even, to make the discourse healthy -  rather than throwing in the "Islamist Rapists" nonsense. 

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Regarding war

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I do not support war but we better prepare for it. Whenever I have posted this some assumed I am advocating war. But I am only saying as Iranian Americans we should be ready. We may not be able to present a war. But we may influence the result.

If it does happen at least we should pressure America to:

  • Guarantee Iranian territorial and regional integrity  
  • Not impose another gang like MEK on Iran.
  • Support democratic movement or at least not hinder them.

Does anyone disagree.


دندون خراب رو باید کشید


It is long overdue for the world to stop and stand up to the Israeli hostage taking of the world by constantly creating atmosphere for war in order to continue its occupation of its neighbors.

  The far more urgent matter is to pull this decayed tooth and bring sanity to foreign diplomacy.


If the war breaks out, I do wish and support full retaliation against the attacking nation.

'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 


iraj khan

Words of Wisdom

by iraj khan on

is the result of deep understanding.

Trita Parsi: 

"But with President Barack Obama in election mode, Benjamin Netanyahu may sense an opening. At a time when the Republicans are attacking Obama for being insensitive to Israeli interests, Obama cannot afford another confrontation with Netanyahu. In spite of the danger Israel would put U.S. troops under if it attacked Iran, Obama’s ability to exact a political price on Israel for doing so is currently limited."

What it all means? A military attack against Iran is a possibility.


Oon Yaroo

These types of articles are very naive, condescending, and ...!

by Oon Yaroo on

articles are very naive, condescending, and dangerous!

I am not sure how high in the echelon of the US administration and Washington DC's diplomatic circles, Dr. Parsi, rubs elbows with that he is so convinced of the current US and IAEA's reports and concerns about the IRR's nuclear weapons activities as pure baseless accusations and saber rattling propaganda.

Trivializing the menace of the criminal IRR regime combined with ignoring the determination and resolve of the US and the rest of the civilized world in confronting the outlaw IRR regime in acquiring nuclear weapons by people like Dr. Parsi can be a lot more consequential and costly to Iranians than the "perceived" US/Israeli administrations' military bluffs!

Reading more and more of Dr. Parsi's articles and becoming more familiar with his mindset reminds me of the infamous Iraqi General nicknamed "Baghdad Bob" who continued with his denial and dismissal of the Americans' resolve until the very last seconds and minutes of the US forces reaching the outskirts of Baghdad!

Dr. Parsi, whatever you do but please don't underestimate the American resolve! 

Thank you!



by Fred on

Those who are holding their breath for the lifetime president of the NIAC lobby to condemn for the first time the Islamist Rapist Republic (IRR) for its illegal nuclear weaponization program, better exhale, it ain’t going to happen.

According to the court documents, the lifetime president of NIAC lobby who is tight with high officials of the IRR is into blaming all but the Islamist Rapists.