N.Y. Times Reports Israelis Practiced Iran Attack
The story by the newspaper's chief military correspondent, Michael R. Gordon, and a frequent national security reporter, Eric Schmitt, says that earlier this month the Israeli Air Force carried out an exercise of more than 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter-bombers and a number of rescue helicopters and refueling tankers over the Eastern Mediterranean and Greece that is seen as a possible practice for a long-range strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
The story carefully says the exercise does not necessarily mean such a strike will take place, or that it is imminent.
But nonetheless, Gordon and Schmitt write that the Israelis are sending signals to America and Europe that Israel may be prepared to strike unless Iranian nuclear development is foreclosed. Efforts by the U.S. and European powers to do this have so far been unsuccessful.
The story also says that Iran is taking precautions against an Israeli attack, increasing air patrols and initiating moves that could result in a new anti-missile capability to shoot down low-flying aircraft. This could affect the timing of an Israeli attack, they note.
Just two days ago, this blog speculated about the possibility of an "October surprise" that could affect the November election in the United States. Although the speculation dealt mainly with the possibility of a new terrorist strike, it also mentioned the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran.
It is unlikely that the Israelis would undertake such an operation without notifying the United States first. This was certainly the case last year when Israeli bombers, backed by commandos, destroyed a suspected North Korean nuclear site in Syria near the Iraqi border.
What would the Bush Administration's attitude be toward such an attack? The Gordon-Schmitt story says little on this point.
We live in a dangerous world, that is certain. But recent developments closer to Israel have brought hope of a truce in the conflict between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, and there have also been some reports of a lessening of tension in Lebanon.
Still, Iran is the "big enchilada" in Middle Eastern affairs, even bigger than Iraq.
The New York Times story will be followed by others. It can only serve to ratchet up tensions between Iran and Israel, not to mention the West.
Also, this morning there is a New York Times column by David Brooks examining closely the nature of the Barack Obama presidential candidacy. Brooks has long been sympathetic to the candidacy of John McCain. But I think his critical column about Obama today deserves to get attention.
I agree with Brooks that Obama is not the liberal that George McGovern, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry were as Democratic candidates. That is one reason why he will probably win. He has changed his mind about running on his own resources, rather than public financing. This is not an unethical decision in my view. He has changed his mind, and is showing savoir faire. We need a president who knows how to get things done.
But an Obama victory would not by any means signify an end to the crisis in the Middle East.
The Brooks column may be the best thing written about Obama all year. Let me quote the last two paragraphs:
"I have to admit, I'm ambivalent watching all this. On the one hand, Obama did sell out the primary cause of his professional life (in renouncing public financing), all for a tiny political advantage. If he'll sell that out, what won't he sell out? On the other hand, global affairs ain't beanbag. If we're going to have a president who's going to go toe to toe with the likes of Vladimir Putin, maybe it's better that he should have a ruthlessly opportunist Fast Eddie Obama lurking inside.
"All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naive. But naive is the last word I'd use to describe Barack Obama. He's the most effectively political creature we've seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn't smart enough to succeed in politics by renouncing politics."
Obama isn't the "man of the hour" yet. But I think he will be on Nov. 4. (That's me, summing it up).
Going through back issues of Time magazine after my recent African trips, I came across an article in the March 3 issue by managing editor Richard Stengel saying newspapers should not endorse candidates for president, because it shows bias. This is another of those nonsensical articles we see too often from journalists.
Ed Guthman, the retired editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, once said that editorial endorsements "show the soul of the newspaper." He has it right. The First Amendment has an incomplete meaning. if newspapers do not endorse.
Stengel's opinion is an early bid for my "Mistaken Journalist of the Year" award in 2008. The L.A. Times endorsements of Obama and McCain for their respective party nominations was one of the best things the paper did this year. Readers, on the other hand, should be sophisticated enough to draw distinctions between editorial page and news page policies.