Israeli president Peres just warned Iran not to attack Israel. What is the point of this gratuitous and bellicose warning from the Mideast's only nuclear power against non-nuclear Iran, which is 1,000 miles away from Israel and surrounded by an American naval armada in the Persian Gulf, a chain of enormous U.S. military bases, and an American army in Iraq?
Not only does it take some imagination to conceive of how Iran might attack the infinitely more militarily powerful U.S. client Israel, one may also be forgiven for wondering why. Ahmadinejad would spoil his bully pulpit if he started a war he would be sure to lose, whereas now he can make an easy name for himself as leader of Islamic nationalism by pointing out the injustice of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Beyond the career interests of this one man, it is surely clear to most in the Iranian elite that Iran's strategic position has improved considerably as the U.S. has become mired down in Iraq and as Iran's Shi'ite allies have consolidated control over Iraq.
The history of Iran and Israel is also informative. One must go back a couple centuries to find an example of Iran starting a war, and Iran has no forces occupying foreign territory. Israel, in contrast, has launched a series of wars against helpless Lebanon, occupies and has carved into "Bantustans" what remained after 1947 of Palestine, launched an aerial attack on Syria last year, and in recent years has repeatedly allowed its officials to threaten unprovoked nuclear attack on Iran.
Yet Israel goes out of its way to raise tensions by "warning" Iran not to attack. No doubt it plays well domestically. Politicians elsewhere have been know to pour the same gasoline on the fires of international tension, and, no, I am not just referring to Ahmadinejad. Is there more to it? Is Israel laying the groundwork for its own weapons of mass destruction lie, its own Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, its own Reichstag fire? Whatever the thinking of Peres, he is playing a dangerous and irresponsible game in these tense times.