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Kevin Bayona: Israel should be a priority

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Posted: September 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.

All the talk of high unemployment, a stagnant economy and soaring deficits during this presidential election could be suddenly eclipsed if the Israeli government decides to launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Israeli television and newspapers have already been reporting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to attack Iran’s nuclear capability before the American election. The Israeli Air Force has been training for a possible assault for the past year and is hoping to elude Iran’s newly purchased Russian anti-aircraft systems. A shadow war is already waging with a number of Iranian nuclear scientists having been assassinated or disappeared, and computer viruses unleashed on its nuclear facilities.

Iranian leaders have lambasted what they perceive to be Israeli aggression, backed by its benefactor, the United States. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, infamous for his fiery anti-Israeli rhetoric, recently called the existence of the Jewish state an “insult to all humanity.”

The Islamic state’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran would deliver a “lightning response” to any Israeli attack. The former head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Rezaee, recently told Iranian state-run TV that if “(t)he Zionists commit the folly and attack Iran, they will receive a crushing response from Islamic Republic’s armed forces which will lead to their annihilation.”

I would hate to be Netanyahu right about now. Israel’s fate rests in his hands, and he effectively stands alone in a world that is less than enthusiastic about Israel defending itself.

A war with Iran would likely metastasize into a regional conflict. Syria is in shambles with a crumbling government, an uncertain future and stock piles of chemical weapons in danger of falling into the wrong hands. Iran’s proxy Hezbollah would almost certainly launch a barrage of rocket-fire into Israel, and draw Lebanon into any possible war.

Along Israel’s southern border, the Egyptians are no longer a reliable ally and appear to be taking an increasingly hostile position, having recently moved tanks into the Sinai Peninsula in violation of their 1979 peace treaty. The Jordanian monarchy, eager to avoid any popular uprising seen in other parts of the Arab world, is unlikely to be very helpful in any Israeli campaign.

I don’t mean to paint such a grim scenario, but I do think it’s important Americans understand what’s at stake. A regional war is the last thing we need, but an Iranian state with nuclear weapons is worse for many reasons.

The Iranian regime is determined to destroy Israel, evidenced by its own official rhetoric. A nuclear-capable Iran would not only arrest Israel’s ability to ensure its continued existence, but it would also make a nuclear incident more likely.

The United States would also bear the destabilizing brunt of having to deal with a nuclear power sandwiched between Iraq and Afghanistan — essentially two American protectorates — still fragile — and important pillars of American foreign policy.

So where does the American government stand? President Barack Obama hasn’t had the best relationship with Israel and was recently criticized for not having visited Israel since being elected president. The Obama administration would prefer an Iran without a nuclear capability, but the president is in the midst of a election and would like to avoid an October surprise that would force him to take an official position on any Israeli strike.

It is a shame that Israel may have to assault Iran’s nuclear facilities alone before the American election, in order to get the president to publicly support an Israeli strike (for fear of looking weak), but unfortunately such is the state of our relationship with our closest ally in the region under this administration.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials have visited Israel attempting to convince the Israelis to hold off on any attack because sanctions are working. The Israelis aren’t buying it, and I wouldn’t either. Israel is a small and vulnerable state, surrounded by a gaggle of hostile and unstable neighbors who are continually threatening Israel’s existence, and Iran has stalled for years with no intention of aborting its nuclear program.

The United States would inevitably be drawn into any regional war, but such is the burden of any global superpower. I can only hope whoever our next president is stands with Israel, even if no one else will.

Kevin Bayona is a Valencia resident


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