Until the end of 2011, Colin Kahl served as US deputy assistant secretary of defense, visiting Israel
13 times during the two years of his term. Now he serves as US President Barack Obama's
campaign advisor and no longer takes part in Pentagon
defense meetings yet he still believes the US needs to take Israel's threat to carry out a military strike against Iran
In an interview
to Al-Monitor Kahl, a Georgetown University professor, said he did not believe that Netanyahu
were bluffing in order to make the "international community act — meaning pressuring us and the Europeans to increase sanctions, the Russians and Chinese to push Tehran; and or force a near-term US attack."
"I think the threat should be taken very seriously," he said.
Kahl went on to explain his stance: "First, US and European sanctions
have nearly maxed out. So what additional benefit does the saber-rattling produce here?
"Second, the P5+1 process is on hold for the moment and a major breakthrough on the accelerated timeline envisioned by the Israelis is unlikely. Not to mention the fact that some Israeli decision-makers seem skeptical of the benefits of diplomacy, period.
"Third, despite the saber-rattling, the Iranians don't fear an Israeli strike (although they might fear a US strike). So Tehran isn’t likely to make a concession in the near-term just because of an Israeli threat."
Kahl added "Finally, the Israelis would seem to know that the prospect of a US strike before the (US presidential) election is very low, regardless of their posture.
"This is not primarily for political reasons, as some suggest, but because Iran is not likely to cross US red lines this year. So the prospect of an Israeli attack is unlikely to drive Obama to war before November."
Kahl stressed that he believed it was more likely that "Israeli leaders are preparing the Israeli public for a strike, and creating a narrative for the international community that diplomacy and sanctions have failed and thus Israel has no choice."
Kahl then told the Al-Monitor why he believed the Iranians were not taking the Israeli threat seriously, noting that it stemmed from the 'Chicken Little' problem: "Viewed from Tehran, the Israelis have said the sky is falling so many times that even if it really is falling this time, nobody believes them.
"The threat has been made so many times, the Iranians are probably inoculated. Second, I think that there is likely a view among the Iranian leadership that an Israeli strike may not be that bad. They think it will not hurt them that badly.
"And they probably think it would allow them to play the victim, shatter international consensus holding sanctions together, rally the Iranian public behind the regime, and provide them with an excuse to accelerate their weaponization program."
Kahl also analyzed the balance of power in the upper echelons of Israeli politics claiming that reporting of the situation was consistent in two respects: "It suggests that Netanyahu and Barak are kind of on an island arguing for a strike in the near term.
"At the same time, the conventional wisdom is that their views are the only two that matter. If they decide to move forward, the rest of the government and military will likely line up behind them."