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Iran: Is Israel planning an attack?

Israel recently staged a war game in which it sent 100 F-16 fighter jets over the Mediterranean, covering a distance roughly equal to the flight to Tehran.

The clock is ticking on a pre-emptive attack on Iran, said Rachel Patron in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. With Iran racing ahead with its nuclear program in defiance of the U.N., it’s starting to look as if Israel, and not the Bush administration, will be the one to take out the rogue state’s uranium-enrichment facilities. Israel recently provided a clear signal of its intentions by staging a war game in which it sent 100 F-16 fighter jets over the Mediterranean, covering a distance roughly equal to the flight to Tehran. Most observers believe the Israelis will strike before January, since they know they can count on the Bush administration’s support. Shabtai Shavit, a former head of Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad, said last week that Iran is getting perilously close to building a nuclear weapon. “The time that is left to be ready,” he said, “is getting shorter all the time.”

That kind of alarmism isn’t helpful, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. As they face an increasingly belligerent Iran, the U.S. and Israel are acting like nervous fourth-graders eyeing the schoolyard bully. “Each appears to be whispering encouragement to the other to go kick the bully in the shins, but each is so terrified of the consequences that neither wants to go first.” Indeed, President Bush last week coyly refused to say he’d oppose an Israeli military strike on Iran. But a proxy war with Iran is just not in America’s best interests. Iran could easily disrupt oil shipments from other Mideast countries, as well as sponsor terrorist reprisals through Hezbollah. The last thing the U.S. needs is higher oil prices and more instability. Besides, we can’t know for sure that diplomacy won’t work until we try it.

That very argument has caused a deep division within the Bush administration, said Herb Keinon in The Jerusalem Post. Administration hawks led by Vice President Dick Cheney favor an attack, while doves allied with Defense Secretary Robert Gates think an attack would be madness. Israel won’t attack without a green light from Washington, leaving it “a pawn” in the administration’s internal power struggle. So far, the hawks haven’t prevailed, said Michael Ignatius in The Washington Post, and it’s quite likely there will be no green light before Bush leaves office. That means that either President McCain or President Obama will begin his term facing the same three options regarding Iran: “Talk or fight, or do something in between?”

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