Israel might attack Iran next year, says Makovsky


Making it clear that he is “not an advocate” for such an action, David Makosky, native St. Louisan and leading expert on the Middle East believes that “odds are better than 50-50 that Israel will attack Iran, maybe next year,” in order to prevent its regime from developing nuclear weapons.

Makovsky, the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an adjunct lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, was in St. Louis last week as the Annual Lazaroff Lecture of the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library. He spoke to a standing-room only audience in the Staenberg Atrium of the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building last Tuesday evening, Sept. 8.


Makovsky has written and lectured extensively on the Middle East. He and Dennis Ross, his former colleague at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and now a chief Middle East negotiator for the Obama Administration, recently published the widely acclaimed book, Myths, Illusions & Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East (Viking, $27.95), which explores prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Makovsky said Iran now has enough low-level enriched uranium that it can convert to nuclear material, citing reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency. “Some say that as long as there are IAEA inspectors who are able to come into Iran, things will remain safe, but the regime can throw the inspectors out, increasing the danger,” Makovsky added. “If Israel feels that it is being threatened with extinction, it could attack Iran as early as next year.”

Makovsky said the June 12 elections in Iran, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed to have been “re-elected,” and which provoked widespread street protests that have been brutally suppressed, does not mean that the Iranian regime is on its last legs.

“The prospects for the future after the elections in Iran and beyond left the regime more isolated, and things could go in one of two ways,” he said. “Iran could become more moderate as a means of ending its isolation, or could become even more truculent, and you have to assume that Ahmadenijad, whose camp has the support of Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, will continue to be in your face.”

Makovsky said that the Obama Administration continues “trying to create a path or an open doorway” for the regime to come through for talks. “There is still value in this approach from a tactical point of view.” He added that if Iran continues to refuse to accept the offer to talk, the Obama Administration could not be accused of not seeking a peaceful resolution of the issue.

Makovsky added that both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have spoken of “non-incremental sanctions” if Iran does not comply with demands of the international community that it stop its development of nuclear weapons. “Hillary Clinton even spoke of ‘crippling’ sanctions,” he said.

Effective sanctions could involve gasoline imports into Iran, Makovsky said. Despite its vast oil fields, Makvosky said Iran imports 43 percent of its gasoline. Such sanctions, to be effective, would require the cooperation of not only nations such as France and Great Britain, but also of Russia and China.

Makovsky said a key date will be the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh later this month. “‘Will Iran throw us a bone and agree to talks?’ is a key question, but it must be clear to Iran that if the talks fail the consequences will be serious.”

Makovsky said it was his belief that most Arab heads of state or governments would “happy” and relieved if Israel took action against Iran, but would not say so publicly. “The Arab leaders feel that they cannot make public statements of support, and the Arab street would certainly protest action by Israel against Iran,” he said.