The attack would give Iran a claim on the sympathy of countries that might otherwise be inclined to shun it, thereby invigorating its campaign to thwart U.S. and Western isolation efforts. But to remain the victim, it would have not to victimize others. Successful victimhood would therefore mean few or no Iranian-sponsored terror attacks against U.S. targets. It would also mean only limited terror attacks against Israel. If victimhood works, and Iran escapes isolation, its current rulers will have fended off one of the main threats to the regime anywhere on the horizon. That benefit would seem to outweigh whatever harm Israeli bombs could do to the nuclear program.
It would not take an invasion of Iran in order to learn about the damage done to the country's nuclear sites following an air raid. Israel, and the U.S., both have specialized commando units that could penetrate these sites quickly and quietly, do their assessments, and try to destroy facilities not destroyed in the air attack. The Israelis have already factored this in to their plans, I've been told. And they have a conveniently-located jumping-off point in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Any bombing run will, at least temporarily, shock the international system and rock Iran internally. The Israelis will have shown that they are deadly serious about confronting the Iranian nuclear threat, that they are willing to go on a permanent war-footing with the Islamic Republic and its deadliest ally, the Hizbollah, which will probably unleash rocket hell on Israel in turn. Although President Obama may become (privately) furious with the Israelis, any Israeli strike will make the United States, and probably even the reluctant Europeans, more determined to shut down Iran's program. If Khamenei and the Guard Corps respond to an Israeli strike with terrorism, which is likely, then they could well put themselves into a strategic cul-de-sac, especially if they strike out against American targets or do something truly stupid, like trying to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.
I would suggest that this "title" belongs to India, which has for the past 15 years or so has had to live with the reality of a nuclear armed immediately adjacent state that is its implacable foe, is highly susceptible to the influence of religious extremists, and has a highly unstable government. By contrast, Israel has not been attacked by another state for the past 37 years, has been able to maintain an occupation and settlement program in violation of international law, and has invaded a neighboring country, Lebanon, on several occasions. To the extent Israel has been "beseiged" since '73, it is largely attributable to the occupation and its interactions with Lebanon.
The number and magnitude of the terrorist attacks that India has faced over the past 30 years are also substantially greater than those faced by Israel.
If Israel initiated a strike, by almost any reading the very mildest result would be economic disruption on a major scale. Upheaval in the world oil markets; resulting financial/trade upheaval of all kinds; uncertainty with a capital-U; and that is before we even start thinking about short- and longer-term "kinetic" retaliatory efforts by Iran.
And this is supposed to push America (and Europe, China, etc) closer to Israel?? To increase their solidarity in bearing down on Iran? Think about it: If, according to this scenario, America had decided not to attack on its own, that necessarily means that from the coldest calculation of our own American self-interest, all the assorted damage from an attack still seemed greater than the benefits. Now Israel would be bringing on all the damage that we had already decided was not worthwhile.
Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University, pointed out that there was a Harvard study about two years ago that concluded that Israel could successfully attack Iran without the help of the United States. He said he is convinced that this analysis is correct.
"There's no question that it is technically doable," he said.
Asked about those who worry that Iran may have hidden some of its nuclear program at undetected underground sites that Israeli warplanes would miss, Steinberg replied: "There are always questions in any military operation. Just as the Iranians may have hidden aspects of their program, there are technologies and weapons that Israel will unveil for this purpose."
Should Israel attack the Iranian nuclear sites, Steinberg said it would set back the Iranian nuclear project for years. But he warned that Iran would respond through the use of its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, "and other terrorist attacks." And there would be political implications "because at some point the regime in Iran will be replaced by a more moderate regime and a military confrontation with Israel would remain a sorepoint."
He stressed that Israel would only attack Iran "as a last resort," and stressed that no decision would be made "until the last minute." But Steinberg said the Israeli military has already drawn up attack plans, just as it did months before it destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981.
... the main charges against Goldberg aren't about loading the cost-benefit analysis. They're about framing the future debate. His piece leaves you thinking that Israel will attack Iran very soon unless America does the honors. So the debate becomes about who should bomb Iran, not about whether Iran should be bombed.
And this is the way Israel's hawks want the debate framed. That way either they get their wish and America does the bombing, or, worst case, they inure Americans to the prospect of a bombing and thus mute the outrage that might otherwise ensue after a surprise Israeli attack draws America into war. No wonder dozens of Israeli officials were willing to share their assessments with Goldberg, and no wonder "a consensus emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July."