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Why Israel Won't Attack Iran

Author: Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
June 9, 2009
Foreign Policy


Every three weeks or so, within a few hours of one Israeli leader or another making a statement about the threat of Iran's nuclear program, my phone starts lighting up. It's never the press, which has become inured to Israel's periodic warnings. Rather, it is nervous hedge fund managers and securities research analysts calling to find out if this is "it." Are the Israelis on the verge of attacking Iran's nuclear facilities? No doubt, should Israel launch airstrikes against the Bushehr reactor or the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz, it would be a market-shaking event. "No," I assure the financial whiz kids on the other end of the line, explaining that "if Israel's leaders were going to strike, they would not be broadcasting it to the world." The phone will then go quiet for a few weeks until the next time Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, an Israeli security consultant, or my cousin Ari warns that time is running out.

Yet, despite my best efforts to walk a few financial analysts off the ledge, a mystery remains: Why haven't the Israelis attacked Iran's nuclear facilities? After all, Israel is a country born of the blood-soaked history of Jews in Europe, and Iran's leaders seem to be promising a new Holocaust. One would think there is already justification enough to dispatch every plane in Israel's arsenal to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Also, between 2001 and 2009, the Israelis enjoyed the support of what was indisputably the most pro-Israel American administration in history.

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