Iran has emerged as the victor in secret war games that simulated an Israeli attack on one of its nuclear facilities.
According to the scenario, the Obama Administration decided to pursue a diplomatic approach to Tehran, leaving America’s closest military ally in the region in the lurch.
The exercise, staged by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies last month, showed that even an Israeli commando raid on Iran’s heavy water plant at Arak would not draw the US into a military conflict with Iran.
“Our leverage over the Americans, when we could prise them away from the Iranians and Europeans and others, was limited,” said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser who played the role of the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in the simulated conflict.
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“Pretty much the only card we had to play was the military action card. And that’s a faded card.”
“The Iranians came out feeling better than the Americans as they were simply more determined to stick to their objectives,” Mr Eiland added.
Mr Netanyahu has already found his relationship with the White House strained, ignoring US demands for a halt on settlement construction in the West Bank before reluctantly agreeing to a temporary freeze that does not include east Jerusalem.
The war games indicated that his standing with Washington would only continue to decline if he did not fall into line over Iran, which Mr Netanyahu sees as the primary threat to the Jewish state after its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that Israel should be “wiped off the map”.
Mr Eiland’s “Netanyahu” managed to have only brief and inconclusive hallway encounters with the US President, played by a former Israeli diplomat.
Security analysts in Israel and America have warned of the potential high cost to be paid if Israel attacks Iran and say that such a strike would at best delay, rather than stamp out, Iran’s nuclear programme. The cost would be not only to Israel, whose cities are within range of Iranian missiles and which would likely be hit by the Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Gaza, but also to the United States. Analysts expect that Iran would step up support for anti-American militants in the Gulf, as well as for militias fighting US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The war games also showed that while Israel was diplomatically and militarily hobbled, Iran would likely continue enriching uranium.
Yesterday Mr Ahmadinejad dismissed the end-of-year deadline set by Washington for Tehran to accept a UN-drafted deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.
Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, an ex-military intelligence chief who played the role of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the war games, said that Tehran would not be deterred from pursuing nuclear weapons unless his regime was threatened with collapse.
He believed that the Americans needed to back their diplomatic initiative with the deployment of warships in the Gulf or persuade India, Iran’s key trading party, to curb its ties with Tehran.
Mr Eiland said that the long-term US goal would probably be containment of Iran should it achieve nuclear status and said that Israel had little choice but to follow its major ally.
“Israel cannot act alone here. An American-Iranian deal would divest Israel of the ability to attack Iran,” he said.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6965707.ece