Not If, but When: Israeli Strike on Iran in May, October, or December?

Not If, but When: Israeli Strike on Iran in May, October, or December?

The Times of Israel reports today on speculation by an Israeli television commentator that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to order a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program in October 2012, after ordering early elections in September and prior to U.S. elections in November. The theory is that President Barack Obama, who is thought to be opposed to an Israeli attack, would have a harder time opposing Israel while engaged in a close re-election race.

However, along the same lines, there are alternate dates that Israel could also choose, depending on Obama’s shifting political fortunes. If Obama is viewed as likely to win easily in November, an attack could come as early as this month–perhaps May 15, the day observed by anti-Israel groups as the “Nakba,” or catastrophe, marking Israel’s independence. The elaborate demonstrations, official and unofficial, that will take place in Iran and throughout the Arab world could allow Israel to take advantage of the fact that enemy forces will be on parade instead of on alert.

If Romney’s chances in November seem more hopeful, but he falls short, then December could be a more likely time for Israel to strike. Israel is probably reluctant to risk its security on a second term for Barack Obama–one in which he anticipates more flexibility in his foreign policy agenda. If Obama is re-elected, Israel’s immediate defense needs will trump the usual desire to maintain good relations with the White House. Netanyahu would rather risk another public rebuke from the Obama administration than the existence of the country he governs.

The implicit assumption of all these speculations is that President Mitt Romney would be unequivocal in his support for Israel, and would be more aggressive in confronting the delinquent Iranian regime, making it less likely that Israel would need to face the risk of attacking Iran alone. Perhaps the October date predicted by the Israeli analyst is a sign that while Romney is still seen as the underdog, his prospects are seen to be improving.