Accompanying its verbal escalations over the Iranian nuclear project, Israel ventured on an extraordinary air force exercise in early June. According to the New York Times, this included more than 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, which flew west 900 miles and returned—the same distance that would be required for an attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz.
Israelis like to claim that they will be the main victim of Iranian nuclear development. They hark back to the scuds of Saddam Hussein, which fell on Tel Aviv in the first Gulf War when they had no direct part in the conflict. So too, this time—Israelis say—they will be in the crosshairs, and this justifies pre-emptive action.
Yet three major obstacles impede an Israeli attack.
1. The biggest is America. We are no longer in the heady days of George W. Bush's first term as president, when Veep Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove all pushed the theory of "preventive war." Today's White House licks the wounds it continues to suffer in Afghanistan and Iraq. Robert Gates, Rumsfeld's replacement, together with Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs, and many others in the Pentagon, vehemently oppose an attack on Iran. In their view America must pull forces out, not sink ever deeper in Middle Eastern mud.