No one is especially eager for a military assault on Iran's maturing nuclear capacity. But almost no one doubts that Iran wants that capacity to be military, and so everyone rational is forced into thinking about how to curb--better yet, destroy--that appetite. The two alternative methods of bringing Ahmadinejad's Tehran to heel do not really command the loyalty of Russia and China. Both do a huge economic business with Iran: for oil, but not just for oil. And even Fiat, the automobile combine in an Italy governed by Berlusconi, has just announced its plans for building cars in Iran. As for diplomacy, Iran has not given an iota of encouragement to those who want to play this game. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana himself has demonstrated that he is just about out of patience with the conference table, and he is ordinarily never finished with talk.
There is one country that can afford to wait no longer, and that is Israel. It already has Iran's proxies--Hezbollah and Assad--on its two northern borders, and through an alliance of convenience Hamas in Gaza. These three would not wish and probably couldn't break from an Iran that can deploy nuclear weapons.
OK, let's one more time try economic pressure and diplomatic enticements for Iran to cease its satanic efforts. Well, that's what we are doing now and precisely. It will not work. I'd make a bet with anyone.
So back to Israel which is not trigger happy.
There is a now a very broad consensus in Israel that, like with Iraq at Osirak, it will be Jerusalem that will have to ensure its own survival by taking out Iran's nuclear facilities. Yes, it might take other steps like bombing Iran's oil fields. But that would be only a temporary matter, and--lest Saudi Arabia cooperated in lifting production for its own good and sufficient purposes, which it actually might--the oil markets would go haywire.
Bombing the atomic facilities, dispersed and underground, would not be easy. But my information tells me that it is eminently doable.
The consensus of which I write has emerged due to the failure of international diplomacy and coercion to do the job. The Israeli consensus is also exactly what a consensus is supposed to be: more or less, across the board.
The distinguished historian of Islamic affairs, Moshe Sharon, has written a piece for the Jerusalem Post urging that there is no alternative but for Israel to do the deed. Sharon's views are predictable, though not unsubtle: he is an academic of the right.
Benny Morris, a frequent contributor to TNR and the author of several influential books including his latest, 1948, published an article in Friday's Times, "Using Bombs to Stave Off War," making pretty much the same argument. Morris is a man of the left, more or less, and one of the "new historians" who forced Israel to accept the truth of its culpability for some of the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees. He now thinks many of these historians quite nutsy. When Morris writes it is obligatory for anyone concerned with Middle Eastern affairs to read him.