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'Israeli strike on Iran means new war for US'

Published time: June 13, 2012 08:54
Edited time: June 13, 2012 12:54

Members of the Iranian revolutionary guard march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011 (Reuters/Stringer)

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If Israel strikes Iran on its own accord it would involuntarily drag the US into a new war in the Middle East - one that America is very reluctant to fight, Yiftah Shapir, the head of the Middle East Military Balance Project, shared with RT.

­The expert from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Israel does not believe a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will force Iran to abandon its nuclear program.

RT: Why do you think it is not in Israel’s interest to launch a military strike on Iran?

Yiftah Shapir: I don’t think Israeli force is large and strong enough to actually destroy the Iranian nuclear weapon project. It might cause some damage, but it would not destroy it. It would not achieve anything.

RT: Do you think the US would consider cooperation with Israel in such a strike, quietly?

YS: First of all there is no “quietly” in this issue because things would tend to come out sooner or later. On one hand, President Obama has not ruled out an American strike yet. Even though his military is very reluctant to get into another war in the Middle East. I don’t think he’d do it during an election year.

RT: So can that be a reason for Israel to launch a strike now, before a new American leadership is in place?

YS: There is a theory in the US that this is what we are going to do. That Israeli attack might draw the US into that war, probably prematurely. It would force the US to get into that war because an Iranian counterattack would almost undoubtedly be targeted against the US as well as Israel. So the US would be drawn. I think such an action without American consent would cause a great damage to Israeli strategic relations with the US for an extended period of time.

RT: Do you think that the hard sanctions recently declared against Iran are enough to satisfy the Israeli government not to strike Iran?

YS: They might satisfy it for the time being. I think that the general attitude in Israel is the sanctions are not enough. They are not going to convince Iran, even if they would be much harsher, not to pursue its nuclear weapon project.

RT: How do you measure Iran’s capability to launch a counterattack?

YS: Iran has a capability of launching a direct missile attack on Israel with few hundred Shahab missiles. What would be an effectiveness of such an attack and accuracy of these missiles – I don’t know. I don’t suppose it would be worse than we had in 1991 when we were under Iraqi missile attack. Damage was caused but no one actually got killed. But there is no guarantee that this is not going to happen. We have now the Arrow (anti-ballistic missile) we did not have then, which would be able to intercept at least some part of this missile attack. The greatest damage to Israel would be, as in the case of Katyusha rocket attack, the economic damage, because under such an attack everything would stand still.

RT: What about Arab support for an Israeli strike on Iran? You mentioned America’s involvement, but surely Israel also needs Arab assistance in the form of landing and fueling assistance (in case of an air strike on Iran)?

YS: Many Arab countries are very cautious of Iran. For example Saudi Arabia has been urging the UN to attack Iran for many years now. They really are terrified. On the other hand assistance to Israel is still out of their agenda in the open. Israel would have to fly over Arab countries. It has done so before and it could be done without consent, even a covert one. We could get assistance and landing rights if not from Saudi Arabia than from the United Arab Emirates. The distance from the UAE to northern Iran is as far as from Israel, maybe even longer, so these landing rights would be helpful only in case of attacking targets in Southern Iran.

Another covert aid might be, though problematically, given by Azerbaijan, which is on the north side of the Iranian border. They have now good relations with Israel. The trouble is to get to Azerbaijan you have to fly over Turkey. With the current relations between Israel and Turkey, I don’t see Turks giving Israel any aid.

RT: Why is Syria so important for Western nations? Could it be the last obstacle before invasion of Iran?

YS: That is a tough one. Why Syria is important? Is it important to the Western states? I don’t see any Western country intervening into Syria as they did in Libya.

RT: Yet there is so much attention and focus on Syria, particularly on President Bashar Assad’s handling the situation. How do you explain that?

YS: That would be expected from the West. Syria is much closer to Europe and Syria has traditional relations with countries like France. And with such atrocity that takes place (in Syria) they cannot stay quiet.

RT: Is there a connection between what is happening in Syria and what is happening in Iran?

YS: There is an obvious connection because the Syrian regime has been Iran’s closest ally for over two decades. This is the main route from Iran to Lebanon, into the whole region influencing Israel. If Assad’s regime falls, Iran is standing to lose very strong ally, because any government that is going to replace Assad, be it a Western-oriented democracy, which is not very likely, or Muslim Brothers, who are Sunnis and hostile towards Shia Iran, any new regime would be hostile towards Iran or very far from cooperating with Iran as much as Bashar Assad’s regime has been. Iran is standing to lose.

RT:Is the alleged supply of weapons to the Syrian opposition enough to upset the regional arms balance?

YS: Right now no. I heard Saudi Arabia started to supply them with weapons. But we’re talking about light weapons. I don’t think this would change the balance of power in the Middle East. They (the Syrian opposition) are still very weak.

RT: Is it possible there will be simultaneous interventions into Syria and Iran?

YS: It does not seem likely. I don’t think the EU or NATO are going into Syria. And I don’t see the EU or NATO taking part in the attack against Iran. The US could try to draw Europeans into attacking targets in Iran, but it doesn’t seem very likely.

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