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Existential Vs. Economic Fear

Israel, Ma'ariv

By Ehud Eilam

At the sum total, from the U.S. viewpoint, the American army in the Middle East and Israel are manning the front line against the threats that come, at least in this case, from Iran. 


Translated by Viktoria Lymar

Edited by Steven Stenzler


19 March 2012


While Israel is worried about a nuclear-armed Iran, the United States is more bothered as to the consequences of the Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.


Israel and the United States have common interests, and the top one is the desire to prevent Iran from nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, there is a fundamental disagreement between Israel and the United States because of the difference between the implications of a nuclear Iran and the implications of striking the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

From the American administration’s vantage point, Israel to a certain extent is like the American army forces in close proximity to Iran. For the American army is based solely on volunteers and the People of Israel has chosen to establish the country in the Middle East. That is, from the standpoint of the administration in the U.S., American soldiers in the Middle East, and so also Israel, with all its population, have agreed to live with the risk inherent in this area. 

The American government allows its army to act by passing budgets, giving political approval and the like. The administration also supports Israel, through military aid and political backing. Although the U.S. Army must obey the government, whereas Israel is a sovereign state – but it, too, understands very well that its freedom of maneuver sometimes is rather limited in light of the need, if not the dependence, on the United States. At the sum total, from the U.S. viewpoint, the American army in the Middle East and Israel are manning the front line against the threats that come, at least in this case, from Iran.


America Might Pay Dearly


In the future, in the worst case scenario, an Iranian onslaught in general and a nuclear one in particular on Israel, on the American citizens in it, and on the American troops in the Middle East, would deal a heavy blow to the United States. But this disaster will not endanger the American superpower in itself, with its population and infrastructures. America itself will be able to wipe Iran out in a counter strike. 

Should Israel attack Iran in the near future, it is going to be accused in Tehran in assistance and early coordination, if not in an active participation in the Israeli offensive – even if the things are not right and even upside down conceptually. 

Iran may be satisfied with vehement declarations against the United States but also assault the American military in the Persian Gulf – including an attempt to disrupt sea traffic in the Straight of Hormuz. 

Iran could as well increase its aid to the rivals of the United States in Afghanistan and initiate terrorist acts against American diplomatic missions in Iraq and throughout the Middle East and possibly even against targets in the United States itself. 

Economically, the United States may pay a high price, literally, in the aftermath of a sharp surge in oil prices, which is likely to undermine and even tear down the slow recovery of the American economy and also reduce President Obama’s chances to get re-elected. These ramifications might create a crisis between the American administration and Israel and as well arouse the American public opinion, at least temporarily, against Israel. 

Apropos the Iranian response against Israel – it could include terror attacks against Jewish or Israeli sites worldwide. Rising oil prices are going to be against Israel, too. In addition, Iran would launch missiles on Israel – though, because of the distance between the two countries, Iran has a far greater military capacity to hit the closer-to-Iran American targets.


How the Terrorist Organizations Are to Act in the Event of a Strike


The big question is how guerilla and terror organizations attached to Israel that enjoy Iranian support, and mainly Hezbollah, would behave in light of its relative intensity. Perhaps, Hezbollah will be satisfied with a limited move against Israel for several reasons. 

One: a desire to avoid a demanding confrontation with Israel. Two: the vague future of the Assad regime, its ally in Syria. Three: the possibility that the Iranian patron of Hezbollah would be weakened in the wake of the fight with the United States and hence Iran would find it hard to assist its Lebanese protégé. In the worst case scenario in terms of Israel, the price it is to pay may be heavy but that could be tolerable, especially if the offensive on Iran is successful. 

Meanwhile, as Israel is concerned about a nuclear-armed Iran, the United States is more bothered by the repercussions of an Israeli air strike on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. From Israel’s perspective – at worst, if Iran possesses a nuclear arsenal, the danger foreseen for the Jewish state is elimination; while regarding the United States, either way, in the worst possible outcome, it might only suffer a significant damage – but not an existential one.

In the past, there was the probability of extreme scenarios – for instance, the IDF’s1 defeat in conventional warfare – which haven’t come true without Israel taking drastic measures to avert them. However, if Israel decides that the combination between Iranian capabilities and intentions pose before it an existential challenge – then it should go to war on the Iranian nuclear groundwork.


Original Hebrew article:



1. Israel Defense Forces, lit. "Defensive Army for Israel"