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Iran: Is Israel preparing to attack?

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Robin Lustig | 12:08 UK time, Monday, 30 June 2008

Someone, somewhere, wants you to believe that Israel is actively preparing plans to attack Iran's nuclear research plants.

So should you believe it? More importantly, should the Iranians believe it?

Israel, it's said, has just carried out a major military exercise which could easily have been a rehearsal for such an attack.

The Economist quotes the former US ambassador at the UN, John Bolton, as suggesting that Israel may be planning an attack for after the US presidential election in November but before the inauguration of the next president in January - "too late to be accused of influencing the election and before needing a new president's green light."

But I think I would still advise caution. Take a look at a map: to get to Iran from Israel you have to fly through the airspace of one or more of these countries: Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iraq. The quickest way is to head due east, across Jordan and Iraq.

True, Jordan is probably in no position to object if the Israelis decide to do it that way. But who controls Iraqi air space? The US. So would Washington give Israel the green light?

Consider this scenario: Israel bombs Iran. Iran retaliates. Its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza (Hizbollah and Hamas respectively) launch multiple rocket attacks into Israel.

But they do more. They order their allies in Iraq into action against US forces there. As a well-informed American friend said the other day: "Israel attacks Iran with US approval and Americans die? I don't think so."

And there's one more thing you need to bear in mind as well. Israel is in the throes of yet another political crisis: the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is beset by corruption allegations and may well be gone by the end of the year. His challengers for the party leadership are already jockeying for position, some hoping to win support by making blood-curdling threats against Iran.

None of this means there won't be an attack. It just means that, as always in the Middle East, you shouldn't necessarily believe everything you hear.


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