David Goldman (aka Spengler), has another insightful post at the Asia Times about the bigger picture in the Middle-East. He writes:
If a contrarian thought might be permitted, consider the possibility that all-out regional war is the optimal outcome for American interests. An Israeli strike on Iran that achieved even limited success - a two-year delay in Iran's nuclear weapons development - would arrest America's precipitous decline as a superpower.And on that note, I will direct your attention to this article which notes that the Israeli military has held the largest snap drills in years:
Absent an Israeli strike, America faces:
A nuclear-armed Iran; Iraq's continued drift towards alliance with Iran; An overtly hostile regime in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood government will lean on jihadist elements to divert attention from the country's economic collapse; An Egyptian war with Libya for oil and with Sudan for water; A radical Sunni regime controlling most of Syria, facing off an Iran-allied Alawistan ensconced in the coastal mountains; A de facto or de jure Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Kingdom of Jordan; A campaign of subversion against the Saudi monarchy by Iran through Shi'ites in Eastern Province and by the Muslim Brotherhood internally; A weakened and perhaps imploding Turkey struggling with its Kurdish population and the emergence of Syrian Kurds as a wild card; A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan; and Radicalized Islamic regimes in Libya and Tunisia.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest loser in the emerging Middle East configuration, and Russia is the biggest winner. Europe and Japan have concluded that America has abandoned its long-standing commitment to the security of energy supplies in the Persian Gulf by throwing the Saudi monarchy under the bus, and have quietly shifted their energy planning towards Russia. Little of this line of thinking will appear in the news media, but the reorientation towards Moscow is underway nonetheless.
From Israel's vantage point, the way things are now headed is the worst-case scenario. The economic sanctions are a nuisance for Iran, but not a serious hindrance to its nuclear ambitions. When US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey intoned on August 30 that he "did not want to be complicit" in an Israeli strike on Iran, he was stating publicly what the Pentagon has signaled to Tehran for the past six months. The US wants no part of an Israeli strike.
This remonstrance from the Pentagon, along with the State Department's refusal to identify a "red line" past which Iran would provoke American military action, amounts to a green light for Iran to build an atomic bomb, Israeli analysts believe.
What if Israel were to strike Iran? From a technical standpoint, there is no question that Israel could severely damage the Iranian nuclear program. ....Israel has had 10 years to plan the operation, and it is a fair assumption that the Israeli Air Force can accomplish the mission. The deeper question is: what constitutes success?
"When Israel bombed [Iraq's] Osiris [nuclear reactor in 1981]," said an Israeli who took part in the planning, "we expected a three-year setback of Iraq's nuclear program. It was delayed by 10 years. But that wasn't the most important thing. What was most important to us is the ripple effect through the region."
The ripple effects are what America's foreign policy establishment fears the most. The vision shared by the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations, albeit with some variation, of a Middle East dotted with democratic regimes friendly to the United States would pop like a soap-bubble. What ripples would ensue from a successful Israeli strike on Iran?
Iran probably would attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz, the gateway for a fifth of the world's oil supply, and America would respond by destroying Iranian conventional military capabilities and infrastructure from the air. This would add to Tehran's humiliation, and strengthen the domestic opposition.
Iran's influence in Iraq and Syria would diminish, although Iran's supporters in both countries probably would spill a great deal of blood in the short run.
Hizbollah almost certainly would unleash its missile arsenal at Israel, inflicting a few hundred casualties by Israeli estimates. Israel would invade southern Lebanon and - unlike the 2006 war - fight without fear of Syrian intervention. In 2006, the Olmert government restricted the movements of the IDF out of fear that the Syrian Army would intervene. Syria's army is in no position to intervene today.
There is a possibility, to be sure, that Syria would launch chemical and biological warheads against Israel, but if the Assad government employed weapons of mass destruction, Israel would respond with a nuclear bombardment. In this case deterrence is likely to be effective. Iran's influence in Lebanon would be drastically diminished.
Stripped of support from its Iranian sponsor, the Alawite regime would fall, and Syria would become a Saudi-Turkish condominium. Ethnic butchery would go on for some time.
Egypt would be cut off from financial support from the Gulf States as punishment for its opening to Iran. The domestic consequences for Egypt would be ugly. The country is almost out of money; some of its oil suppliers stopped deliveries last August, and Egypt's refineries lack funds to buy oil from the government.
The Israeli military on Wednesday conducted its largest snap drill in years as tensions with Iran over its nuclear program rise and civil war in neighboring Syria rages.
Military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz ordered the exercise to test the competence and preparedness of several units in the armed forces, a military statement said. It called the drill in northern and central Israel "part of a routine inspection" that "does not indicate any changes" in the country's alert levels.
Tens of thousands of soldiers were mobilized for the exercise, including artillery and air force personnel, making the drill unique because of the number of soldiers and senior officers involved, several officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity, according to military regulations.
As part of the exercise, troops were dispatched by air from central part of the country to the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights, captured from neighboring Syria in the 1967 Mideast war, the officials said. The drill ended with a live fire exercise in the Golan.