The identity of Israel’s post-Olmert prime minister will determine its war options on Iran

According to debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources, the overriding considerations that will determine if and when Israel attacks Iran are these: whether to strike before George W. Bush’s exit, whether Iran’s strategic ties with Syria and the Palestinian Hamas can be severed in advance and what prime minister is chosen to manage the war.
These are the determinants, rather than “the red lines” cited by senior Pentagon officials to ABC News Monday as triggers for an Israeli offensive, namely when Natanz nuclear facility produces enough weapons-grade uranium – some time in 2009 or this year – and when Iran acquires SA-20 air defense systems from Russia
debkafile quotes intelligence sources as negating those triggers:
1. Contrary to most reports, including those put out by Teheran, Iran is lagging behind its target date for producing a sufficiency of weapons-grade uranium. It is held up by the technical hitches dogging the smooth, continuous activation of its high-grade centrifuges.
2. Moscow has suspended all sales of sophisticated air defense systems to Iran and Syria alike – so that Israel has no cause for haste on that score.
3. That Iran is heading for a nuclear weapon is no longer in doubt. What Israel must decide very soon is whether to strike Iran’s production facilities before Bush leaves the White House or wait for his successor to move in, in 2009.
There is a preference in Jerusalem for a date straight after the America’s November 4 presidential election – except that military experts warn that weather and lunar conditions at that time of the year are unfavorable.
If Israel does opt for an attack, August and September would be better, they say – or else hold off until March-April 2009.
Israel’s political volatility is another major factor in the uncertainty surrounding an attack. Towards the end of September, the ruling Kadima party is committed to a leadership primary. The party’s choice of prime minister and the factors that determine how he (or she) reaches a decision on attacking Iran can only be guessed at.
4. A final consideration must be Israel’s ability to prevent Syria and Hamas opening war fronts at the time of Israel’s attack on Iran. In other words, the IDF needs to know it must contend with two fronts, Iran and the Lebanese Hizballah, not four.
Notwithstanding these major deterrents, the weight of opinion in Israel’s decision-making community at this time is in favor of an early military strike. There is an international consensus that Iran cannot be allowed to attain a nuclear bomb, but no sanctions or incentives are proving effective as preventatives. Therefore, it is felt, the sooner Israel pre-empts a nuclear-armed Iran, the better, because the longer it delays, the more dangerous the Islamic Republic’s retaliatory capabilities will become.

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