In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, former UN ambassador John Bolton fantasizes about Israel unilaterally attacking Iran. He attempts to game out what would happen and how Iran would react. Now, my first reaction to this is to ask how well, in the near past, have neo-conservatives been able to predict things? I think the record is clear that people like John Bolton, Richard Perle, and Bill Kristol made many confident predictions during the Bush era that simply turned out to be dead wrong. So, I don’t have any confidence that Bolton has the first clue what would happen if Israel launched an attack against Iran without getting permission for it from the United States.
Bolton assumes that Iran would refrain from closing the Straits of Hormuz or from retaliating against the United States in any way. He assumes that Iran would not withhold oil exports. He also assumes that Iran would not risk more lethal attacks from Israel and, therefore, wouldn’t attack Israel directly. He thinks Iran would just ramp up their support for Hezbollah and Hamas, effectively limiting themselves to skirmishes on the Israeli borders.
I don’t have access to the best intelligence, but I think Bolton’s smoking the crack-pipe with his analysis. I believe Iran would disrupt the shipping lanes. I believe the United States, furious with Israel for starting a war without permission, would seek to negotiate the reopening of the Straits rather than being shanghaied into another war on Israel’s schedule. U.S.-Israeli relations would be shattered, and the U.S. government would be at pains to make clear that they did not give tacit permission for the attacks.
It is extremely unlikely that Israel would succeed in destroying Iran’s uranium enrichment program, and they would emerge on the other side of the conflict without having accomplished anything, and isolated (perhaps fatally) like never before.
What’s so reckless is that people like Bolton can dismiss dangers so cavalierly. Israel cannot afford to listen to this kind of advice. Hopefully, they can read history as well as I can. The neo-conservatives are as close to always wrong as it is possible to be.