With the entire world is still celebrating the election of Barack Obama, it may not be the best time for pessimism about the future, such as fears of a possible Israeli attack on Iran in two months.
“A possible Israeli strike against Iran is not completely out of the picture,” a senior European Union diplomat told Turkish media here. “The perfect time (for Israel) is between now and Jan. 20 (Obama’s inauguration day).”
The international community is concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, suspecting Tehran may produce nuclear weapons, which would trigger an arms race in the already unstable region. The diplomat said that while the possibility of an Israeli attack is low, it is clear that when Obama takes up his post on Jan. 20, it will go completely off the agenda. “Israelis would consider a move such as this before Bush and Cheney leave,” the diplomat added.
While Obama, like Bush, wants tougher U.N. sanctions on Iran if it keeps defying demands to suspend enrichment, he said dialogue with foes without preconditions was just as important.
"I will prepare for and engage in direct talks with Tehran to test its intentions," he told the International Atomic Energy Agency according to a Reuters report.
“It's time to stop giving countries like Iran and North Korea an excuse. We need a president who will talk to all nations, friend and foe," he said in a campaign speech earlier.
Several Israeli officials have voiced their uneasiness with Iran’s program, warning Tehran that they will do whatever is necessary, including the use of their military, to eliminate such a threat. Iran responded clearly to this, stating that any attack against its territory would lead to retaliation. For Israel, another major concern is the intention of Iran to buy S-300 anti-ballistic missiles from Russia. “The purchase of these highly developed anti-ballistic missiles will change the strategic balance in the region,” the diplomat said.
With S-300 ballistic missiles, Iran would have an efficient shield to protect itself from Israel’s mid and long-range missiles. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Moscow recently to express concern over the bargaining between Russia and Iran over the purchase of the S-300s. Olmert asked Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to put a stop to their sale to Iran.
Diplomats say that if diplomatic pressure does not yield results, then Israel could consider destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities before the S-300s are delivered to Iran.
Riots expected in Iran
In any case, any military attack against Iran would not be welcomed by the European Union and other regional countries. From the EU perspective, Obama’s administration’s two priorities will be Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran will rank among the top five issues, but diplomats do not expect any serious move before the end of 2009.
“Meanwhile, international sanctions imposed on Iran have begun to strain the Iranian economy. There could be more serious street riots. There is also going to be elections next year. Hamaney (Iran’s religious leader’s) decision on Ahmedinejad’s candidacy, is not yet known,” the diplomat said.
The EU will present a document, probably next week, from its 27 members to President-elect Barack Obama, underlining Europe’s intention to continue close cooperation with the United States. The document is expected to underline the need for multilateralism and the importance of a coherent global administration.
“Do not behave like Bush did,” will be the EU’s message to Obama, in short.