A military strike on Iran by way of Israel could still occur at a moment’s notice, but the US is now warning its allies that any action overseas would jeopardize America’s ability to assist in a Middle East war.
Although US President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney both say the next administration will be aligned with any Israeli efforts to prevent Iran from procuring a nuclear weapon, any unilateral strike on the Islamic Republic could prevent America from offering its service in the event of a war.
The United States currently has military bases across much of the world, including key stations in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Should Israel decide to strike Iran, instability in the region is expected to become rampant and American officials fear they won’t be able to rely on troops stationed overseas to come to their ally’s aid.
“The Gulf states’ one great fear is Iran going nuclear. The other is a regional war that would destabilize them,” a source in the region tells the UK’s Guardian. “They might support a massive war against Iran, but they know they are not going to get that, and they know a limited strike is not worth it, as it will not destroy the program and only make Iran angrier.”
A war overseas is less hypothetical than officials have let on, though, and could be a very likely reality. Earlier this week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told London's Daily Telegraph that his nation all but launched an assault on Iran only eight months ago when the country was thought to be close to going nuclear. At the last moment, though, Iran apparently diverted part of its enriched uranium to civilian programs, prompting Israel to pull the plug on a planned preemptive aerial assault.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, recently went on the record with the French magazine Paris Match to say he thinks any strike to stop a nuclear Iran would be well received, despite warnings from others that the Middle East would erupt instantly, especially given the rampant disruptions spurred in recent months through the Arab Spring.
"Five minutes after [an attack], contrary to what the skeptics say, I think a feeling of relief would spread across the region," Netanyahu said. "Iran is not popular in the Arab world, far from it, and some governments in the region, as well as their citizens, have understood that a nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous for them, not just for Israel."
Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies office in Bahrain, tells the Guardian, "I don't believe the Gulf states are praying for an Israeli attack.”
"An attack would create difficult problems for them on the political level. They will be called on to denounce Israel, and they will want to stay out of it. The risk of regional war to them is huge," he said.
On their part, Iran has vowed to attack America if Israel decides to strike first — regardless of whether or not there is any military action from the US.
“We will enter a confrontation with both parties and will definitely be at war with American bases should a war break out,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said in a statement this past September.