Israel-Iran Crisis Still On
08 May 2012
Today, Vice President Joe Biden warned that the window of opportunity for peacefully resolving the standoff over Iran's nuclear program was closing "in the near term."
Speaking in Atlanta to the Rabbinical Assembly's annual convention, Biden pointedly said Washington could not stop potential military action by Israel and predicted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be "gone" in two years.
Does the overnight political earthquake in Israel, which led to todays announcement of a "national unity government", have implications for intentions regarding a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear programme?
The Iranian-born Mofaz is thought to oppose unilateral military action - a position very much at odds with that of his new boss. Netanyahu, along with defence minister Ehud Barak, is adamant that Israel reserves the right to act to stop the "existential threat" of a nuclear Iran.
As a former chief of staff, Mofaz's views inside the unofficial core group of ministers that takes key decisions - the Forum of Eight, now the Forum of Nine - will carry some weight. But, according to analyst Meir Javedanfar, he is unlikely to be a restraining factor on Netanyahu and Barak. "His influence will be limited. His hands will be tied because of the position of weakness from which he entered the coalition," he said.
According to Anshel Pfeffer, who writes a blog on Israel-Iran for Haaretz, the move has also "taken the most senior security figure in the opposition out of the opposition and into the government".
Mofaz served as military chief of staff under governments led by both Netanyahu and Barak. "He has a history of taking orders from Bibi [Netanyahu] and Barak," says Pfeffer. "I think he will be very much in line [on Iran]. It will be a triumvirate."
An analysis by IHS Jane's suggests that Mofaz's presence in the government will not alter the prospects of military action. "Whether a condition of the agreement between Kadima and Likud involves Mofaz assuming a position on Iran closer to Netanyahu remains to be seen, but there will be many observers who will view the reconstituted government as preparing the ground for an attack on Iran - a decision that some members of the government, including Netanyahu, think may need to be made in the second half of 2012," it said.
A side-effect of the cancellation of September's election and the reinstatement of the October 2013 election is to extend Barak's political life for another year and a half. As I wrote earlier in an analysis of Tuesday's developments, Barak was facing potential political elimination in four months. Now his position at Netanyahu's side is assured for the timeframe of a possible military strike.
American and European diplomats said that one demand from the Obama administration and its allies would be a halt in the production of uranium fuel that is considered just a few steps from bomb grade, and a stop to the shipment of existing stockpiles of that fuel out of the country. Another demand is the immediate closure and ultimate dismantling of a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain, known as Fordo, near the holy city of Qum.