Thursday, September 3, 2009

Silence May Not Be Golden For Iran

The holy spat between Israel and Iran is now passing through one of those high danger periods. But in this one, the gods of war may not cry wolf. Since 2006, there has been a high degree of consistency in the intelligence estimates on the time table for Iranian production of atom bomb material - sometime in 2010 they'll have enough to start making Israel busters.

In an article at back on March 31, 2009, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Obama's team would have to make progress quickly on Iran diplomacy or Israel would have to go to the military option. "Neither Netanyahu nor his principal military advisors would suggest a deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one aide said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, not years". That was 4 months ago.

Art Cashin has been talking about some geopolitical "events" cooking that would cause "historic trading" perhaps during Ramadan, the month long Musim fasting observance that began August 22. See my blog post Art Cashin's Strange Comments . So I did an informal survey of the threats and warnings being issued by the officials inside the Israeli government to see if we're building to a clash: (click to enlarge)

This isn't what you would expect from the saber rattlers if we are building to a blowup. But consider the observation of Andrew Apostolou and other analysts interviewed a few months ago on Israel's willingness to strike Iran.

"But it's unlikely, they say, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reach that conclusion in the coming weeks or months...Israel is locked in a wait-and-see mode, planning to let U.S. diplomacy exhaust itself. Matthew Silver, a historian at Emek Yezreel College in the Galilee, agrees: "Netanyahu figures, "Okay, let Obama talk to the mullahs. It's a preordained failure." That the Israeli prime minister is making loud noises about a possible military strike, Apostolou says, suggests one won't come anytime soon. "If the Israelis really wanted to scare the Americans, they'd say nothing. When the Israelis go really quiet, that's when you have to start worrying. But in the meantime, Israel will continue to match Iran's belligerent signals."

And ran a July 13 article titled "The U.S. Should Worry When Israel Gets Quiet". Well, Israel does seem to have "gone quiet". Lately, their pronouncements have been preferring diplomacy if the military option is even mentioned. And now they say things like what Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. recently said on August 16 - Israel is "far from contemplating" a strike on Iran. It's interesting that the quiet zones in the above chart for this year and last coincide with the optimal time window of the year for a strike, September to November, when the prevailing monsoon winds keep the radioactive fallout and dust primarily in Iran and out of neighboring countries. I suspect that they were on the verge of doing the strike last year, but the financial crisis may have aborted it.

Obama and the G8 have set a late September line in the sand for a negotiated solution, after which they will ratchet up sanctions. I have a feeling Israel may then ratchet up their F16s.

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