Last week the United States was reported to have warned Israel against launching any attacks against Iran until after President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January. The report came hot on the heels of the Israeli military’s annual security assessment, which urged the nation to quietly work on plans to launch an attack against Iran while trying to prevent the US from reaching any deals with the Iranian government that would undermine Israel’s agenda.
But Israeli military sources are now suggesting that the nation is drawing up plans for an attack on Iran’s civilian nuclear plant that would not require coordination with the US. The officials described such an attack as difficult, but not impossible to execute without American assistance.
It is generally assumed that an Israeli attack on Iran would require overflying Iraq, whose airspace is presently under US control. Exactly how the Israelis intend to circumvent the need for US backing to launch an attack against Iran is unclear.
US officials have suggested in the past that any Israeli access to Iraqi airspace would require the acquiescence of the Iraqi government, a virtual impossibility given Iraq’s international diplomatic effort to assure neighbors it wouldn’t be a staging ground for attacks. Making matters more complex, the Status of Forces Agreement, which goes into effect at the end of the month, would return legal control over Iraqi airspace to the Iraqi government, making the ability of the US to provide Israel cover to use the nation as a staging ground for an attack on Iran even more difficult.