Bush's decision to refuse to offer any support for a strike on Iran appeared to be based on two factors, the sources said. One was US concern over Iran's likely retaliation, which would probably include a wave of attacks on US military and other personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on shipping in the Persian Gulf.
The other was US anxiety that Israel would not succeed in disabling Iran's nuclear facilities in a single assault even with the use of dozens of aircraft. It could not mount a series of attacks over several days without risking full-scale war. So the benefits would not outweigh the costs.
Iran has repeatedly said it would react with force to any attack. Some western government analysts believe this could include asking Lebanon's Shia movement Hizbollah to strike at the US.
"It's over ten years since Hizbollah's last terror strike outside Israel, when it hit an Argentine-Israel association building in Buenos Aires [killing 85 people]", said one official. "There is a large Lebanese diaspora in Canada which must include some Hizbollah supporters. They could slip into the United States and take action".
Even if Israel were to launch an attack on Iran without US approval its planes could not reach their targets without the US becoming aware of their flightpath and having time to ask them to abandon their mission.
"The shortest route to Natanz lies across Iraq and the US has total control of Iraqi airspace", the official said. Natanz, about 100 miles north of Isfahan, is the site of an uranium enrichment plant.
In this context Iran would be bound to assume Bush had approved it, even if the White House denied fore-knowledge, raising the prospect of an attack against the US.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment