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A Gathering Storm

There has been an avalanche of news lately, almost all of it portending bad outcomes. Mobs of perpetually outraged Muslims have been besieging the embassies of America and other western countries throughout the Middle East and beyond, Chinese mobs have been agitating for a war with Japan over some rocks sticking out of the Pacific Ocean, the long and almost forgotten war in Afghanistan seems to be going badly, a slew of data show the weak American economy is weakening further, the country gets another credit downgrade, and of course there’s always another day’s worth of stories about everything that Mitt Romney’s doing wrong.

It’s not so overwhelming that the president of the United States couldn’t enjoy a weekend of watching football, but it’s voluminous enough that you might have missed the story about the massive international armada that is converging on the Strait of Hormuz. This intriguing tidbit has been largely overlooked amidst all the competing news, but it could portend the worst outcome of all.

Ships heading toward the Strait of Hormuz or sailing nearby in the Mediterranean include three Nimitz class carrier groups and at least 12 battleships and assault ships carrying Marines and special forces from the United States, four minesweepers and a state-of-the-art destroyer from the British Royal Navy, a French aircraft carrier, and supporting warships from 22 other countries. The stated reason for this extraordinary meeting of naval power is a training exercise, but the Iranian government is clearly expected to understand that it is actually there in case of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. There is no reason to believe the armada will offer any direct assistance to the Israelis in such an event, and American foreign policy remains committed to restraining them indefinitely, but Iran has vowed to close the crucial sea lane, attack American bases throughout the region, and strike at any other western interests within range, so there is ample reason for the west to have some naval power handy should Iran dare to make good on its threats.

An Israeli attack on the nuclear facilities in Iran, where the ruling theocrats have openly expressed their ardent desire to destroy the Jewish state and all of its people, should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the situation over the past several years of ineffectual sanctions and failed diplomacy. It is somewhat surprising that the armada is readying for the expected strike now, given that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently stated that Iran is still six or seven months from having 90 percent of what is needed to make a nuclear bomb, and the timing has led to much speculation.

One plausible theory is that the Israelis believe they need to strike during the American presidential election so that Obama will be constrained by public opinion from interfering with their efforts. Although Obama frequently expresses his staunch support of Israel, and with enough tele-promptered eloquence to convince many American voters, the Israelis seem to take a more skeptical view. Giving Obama the sort of scrutiny that is applied when the survival of a nation is a stake, the Israelis likely see a friend of Rashid Khalidi and other Palestinian radicals, a self-described spiritual protégé of a virulently anti-Semitic pastor, a man who has boasted of his long background with the Muslim world and his sympathy for its causes, and a pure product of an internationalist left that despises Israel.

Obama’s presidency has provided the Israelis little reassurance. The president spoke of the indefensible 1967 borders as starting point for negotiations with the Palestinians, has been more exorcised about Jewish apartments being built in Jerusalem than Jewish schools being bombarded with rockets on the Lebanon border, treated the Israeli Prime Minister with a pointed lack of diplomatic protocol, and lately claimed to be too busy for a meeting with Netanyahu even as he finds time for hobnobbing with “The Pimp With a Limp” and other celebrities. The Israelis might well conclude that the best time for action against Iraq is before a second Obama term.

This scenario is not offered as a prediction, merely a possibility. It’s a possibility well worth watching for, though, despite all the other news and even in football season.

— Bud Norman

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