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Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Iraq vs. Israel mano a mano?
"If Iraq attacks Israel tomorrow, I would assume the Prime Minister would respond. He's got -- he's got a desire to defend himself," said U.S. President George W. Bush in an October 16 press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the White House.
"If attacked by Iraq with nonconventional weapons, including biological and chemical materials, Israel will 'exercise its right to self-defense,' [Israeli] Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned yesterday," writes Nina Gilbert in yesterday's edition of the Jerusalem Post.
Whenever this topic comes up there seems to be an assumption that combat between the Iraq and Israel with the U.S. on the sidelines is a real possibility. But how likely is such a situation?
If Iraq were to attack Israel 45 minutes from now, Israel would no doubt respond but it seems unlikely that the U.S. wouldn't get into the game. At the very least the U.S. would provide Israel with military advisors and more likely than not President Bush would view this and the final piece of the puzzle needed to go to war with Iraq. His arguments could be two-fold. There would be the practical argument that the U.S. is on a course to go to war with Iraq as it is and now that Iraq is fighting our close ally we might as well get involved if only to help prevent greater damage being done to Israel. Secondly, if Iraq attacked Israel with nonconventioanl weapons, Bush could present this as further proof that the U.S. has to install a new regime in Iraq in order to avoid being attacked by Iraq. Bush's position that "we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud" would appear to be on more solid ground if Iraq were to use weapons of mass destruction against another country, paritcularly an ally of the U.S. such as Israel, and popular support for the endeavor would likely increase significantly. Bush already has congressional authority to wage war against Iraq and an Iraqi attack of Israel would likely be the perfrect scenario to set up a war.
And Israel would want the U.S. to get involved both because of the U.S. military might and because the ability of Israel to install a new government in Iraq that countries like Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia would be anything but very hostile to is probably less than nil. Because the U.S. has far closer ties to those countries and is not a state for Jewish people, Uncle Sam would be far more effective in that area.
Leaving that scenario aside, let's say Bush gets this show on the road and attacks Iraq without Iraq first attacking Israel but during the fighting Iraq does strike Israel. Israel would no doubt get involved but they would almost certainly be working with the U.S. If two countries are close allies and have a common enemy that they are both waging war against, it doesn't take a diplomat to see which way the strategy meetings go. The two countries would work together if only to increase the effectiveness of each military's actions and avoid hits by "friendly fire."
UPDATE: I am an idiot and originally titled this entry "Iraq vs. Israel mono y mono?" 6:02 p.m. 10/29/02.