August 15, 2012 "Business Insider" -- For months senior Israeli officials have said the "window of opportunity" for attacking Iran's nuclear facilities is "before the U.S. presidential election in November" because Iran's nuclear facilities will soon be in fortified underground bunkers out of the reach of Israeli bombs.
But former CIA analyst Ray McGovern believes that delaying Iran's nuclear capabilities is not the primary concern of a military strike, but simply the pretext.
"The Israelis want to pretend the Iranians are building up their nuclear capabilities, want to zap them between now and November 6, and the chances are at least even that they will try to do that thinking the U.S. will come in with both feet," McGovern told us.
McGovern thinks that "Israel does not fear a nuclear weapon in Iran's hands" because Israel already has a nuclear arsenal and the threat of Iran having a couple of nukes "would not be all that credible except in a limited, deterrent way."
That deterrent would be important, however, because "since 1967 the Israelis have been able to pretty much do whatever they want in that area" and a nuclear Iran would bring a "different strategic situation because, for the first time, Israel would have to look over their shoulder."
So even though Israel's leaders don't truly fear imminent nuclear annihilation, McGovern says they "would like to end any possibility, however remote, that anytime soon Iran could have that kind of very minimal deterrent capability."
McGovern believes that Israel's primary goal is to "have Iran bloodied the same way we did to Iraq" so that Iran "would no longer be able to support Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza, Lebanon, and elsewhere."
And the reason Nov. 6 is an important date, McGovern wrote in a recent article, is that "a second-term Obama would feel much freer not to commit U.S. forces on Israel’s side" and "might use U.S. leverage to force Israeli concessions on thorny issues relating to Palestine."
There is serious doubt that Israel could handle a full-fledged war with Iran, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that he would prefer the U.S. and its superior firepower lead any attack.
A potential loss of leverage after Nov. 6 would explain the current drumbeat of war being played by Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
BI contributor ForexCrunch points out that Netanyahu was recently granted greater powers within the government, a text message system is being tested in case of retaliation to an attack, the Bank of Israel is preparing the financial system for an Israeli strike in Iran, France is preparing to evacuate its citizens from Israel, and the Israeli media have published a flurry of articles suggesting a military strike is imminent.
"Netanyahu feels, with good reason, that he's got Obama in a corner for these next three months," McGovern said. "If he's right about Obama jumping in with both feet—and I think Obama would do that—even though Israeli generals are advising that it could be a disaster, [then] Netanyahu is willing to try it."
For its part the Obama administration has been doing everything it can—short of saying that it would not back an Israeli strike—to delay an attack. Beyond offering firepower in exchange for waiting until after the election, U.S. officials informed Israel that staunch American ally Saudi Arabia vowed to take down any Israeli jet flying in its airspace.
And five senior officials—including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta—have visited Israel this month to insist there is still time for diplomacy, in the form of talks and heavy sanctions, to prevent a physical attack.
But, as McGovern notes, it may not be up to the U.S. at this point.
"We are at war with Iran right now—not only the cyber attacks, but the special forces inside Iran and the assassination of the Iranian scientists," McGovern said. "The only question is whether that will extend to an attempt to destroy their nuclear-development facilities, and that's up to Israel."
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