Iran is playing a very dangerous game at the moment, and they are raising the stakes simultaneously on several of their wagers. First, they have now announced that they are planning, despite recent conciliatory remarks, to proceed with the enrichment of nuclear fuel to near-weapons-grade levels (well, 20 percent isn’t 90, but it will mean they can get there much more quickly). In this they are gambling that China and Russia will provide a sufficient counterpoise to thwart any Western pressure for international sanctions (it was Russia, after all, who provided the fuel rods, for the Bushehr reactor, that make this enrichment program possible, and relations between China and the US have been disintegrating rapidly in recent weeks). The US has been tight-lipped about this latest act of brinkmanship, but meanwhile the Fifth Fleet and the Israeli Navy are said to be preparing various options in the Gulf.
Second, Iran has been airlifting medium-range surface-to-surface missiles into Syria, presumably under the terms of a new agreement signed by the Iranian and Syrian defense ministers Gen. Ahmad Vahidi and Gen. Ali Habib. The purpose of this latest pact between Syria and Iran is, as always, to strengthen the encirclement of Israel by their proxies Hizballah and Hamas. To this end Syria lately delivered to Hizballah a shipment of mobile-launched, highly lethal Fateh-110 missiles, which can carry a half-ton warhead 150 miles, putting all of Israel’s principal cities within range from Lebanon.
These developments are, of course, worrisome to all in terms of the general stability of the region, but to Israel they present an immediate mortal risk. It is therefore hard for me to believe that they will not act, and soon. What this will mean in terms of US involvement is far from clear, but at the very least I should expect that the Navy will not stand idly by.
I think there are probably a lot of people in Washington and Jerusalem who aren’t getting much sleep right now. Maybe a few other places too.