Why would a prime minister who has resigned and is leaving office in eight weeks meet with a lame-duck president who is also leaving office in eight weeks?

Ehud Olmert resigned as prime minister on Sept. 21, 2008. He currently fills the seat until general elections take place on Feb. 10, 2009. There is no reason for a lame-duck president and an equally lame-duck prime minister to meet except to pursue the above-stated purpose. The price of oil has dropped below $50 a barrel. The greatest dilemma these two men faced was when oil was over $100 a barrel, an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would have created a potential for a short-term surge in oil prices. Now that oil is at its lowest level in months, Israel needs approval for fly-over of Gulf Sunni states based upon plausible deniability during the mission to Iran.

Time magazine quoted an “unnamed Israeli source at the Defense Ministry” as having said, “We have been warned off.” It has been hinted in the past by IDF officials that Israel may launch a pre-emptive strike on nuclear facilities in Iran prior to the Jan. 20, 2009 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. No Israel Defense Forces general would ever say that unless it were officially approved. Why did he say it? So when Israel attacks, the U.S. will not be blamed.

The Sunni states in the region despise the Shia and are adamantly opposed to a nuclear Shia state, which would be a terrific threat to them, the 200-mile Persian Gulf and the state of Israel. The next prime minister will likely be my old friend Benjamin Netanyahu. When I was an adviser to Prime Minister Begin, I asked him to appoint Benjamin to his first government job. Therefore, if Olmert authorizes the attack against Iran’s reactors, Netanyahu can say, “It wasn’t me; Olmert’s gone.”

Bush, on the other hand, can do precisely what Ronald Reagan did with Iraq’s Osiris raid. Prime Minister Begin authorized Israel to destroy Iraq’s French-built nuclear reactors on a Sunday. When Reagan was informed by George Schultz at Camp David, he said, “Oh well, boys will be boys.” Plausible deniability! Reagan then turned around and gave a lecture against Israel and suspended arms sales to Israel for a brief period.

Because of the fact that Iran has just announced that enough centrifuges are online to build an atomic bomb, Israel feels that the emergency is now. Former Israel Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, who endorsed my book “Showdown with Nuclear Iran,” calling it the “most extensive book on the subject,” has told me that under no circumstance would Israel hold back once Iran has enough centrifuges to build the bomb. Israel knows Obama will not allow them to attack once he takes office. The only way they can attack is to do so before the inauguration, while they have the support of George Bush.

On Monday, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also met with Olmert. The secular media has reported that these were social visits only. I assure you that vice presidents and secretaries of state did not have private meetings for social purposes only.

Ehud Olmert met Secretary of State Rice for breakfast at Blair House and also held private, strategic meetings with Dick Cheney. The prime minister came seeking permission from George Bush to attack Iran’s nuclear reactors during the next six weeks prior to President-elect Obama’s inauguration, and most likely in December.

According to one source, “U.S. officials have asked Israel to refrain from launching any major military action in the region during the waning days of the Bush presidency, (Israeli sources have told Time.) Previously, some Israeli military officials had hinted to the media that if Israel were to carry out its threats to strike at Iranian nuclear installations, it might do so before Barack Obama enters the White House in January. But now, a Defense Ministry official says, ‘We have been warned off.’

“The call for restraint was relayed to Israeli officials by senior U.S. counterparts, (Time’s sources say,) and it is likely to be reinforced during Monday’s valedictory meeting in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush.”

Israel could target five or six major Iranian facilities such as such as the uranium processing plant at Isfahan, the uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, as well as Iran’s Russian-built reactor at Bushehr and their heavy-water facility at Arak, inflicting major damage before any fighter plane had to enter Iranian air space.

Israel’s nuclear program is called the Samson Option. It is highly likely that Israel’s low-yield tactical “nukes” could be used to hit the type of hardened underground centrifuge farm Iran has built at Natanz to enrich uranium.

Israel’s larger nuclear warheads have been adapted for the Jericho series of missiles. Israel also has cruise missiles that can be adapted with nuclear warheads, such as the Popeye Turbo, which is designed to be air-launched from Israel’s F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. The Popeye Turbo can also be launched from the three Dolphin-class submarines Israel possesses.

Israel could launch relatively low-yield tactical nuclear weapons from the air and sea via Israel’s fighter aircraft and submarines. Higher-yield nuclear warheads deliverable by Israel’s Jericho II missiles would most likely be held in reserve, waiting to see what retaliatory responses Iran launches and how the war escalates from the initial attack.

In retaliation for a military strike on Iran, Hezbollah would undoubtedly launch rocket attacks on Israel from Lebanon. Hamas would probably launch rocket attacks from the Gaza. We might even see a resumption of the suicide bombers penetrating Israel’s cities.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has stated that Hezbollah tripled its arms strength following the 2006 war in Lebanon. According to Barak, the Iranian proxy now has some 42,000 rockets, some with the capability of striking Ashkelon, Yerucham and Dimona (Israel’s nuclear sites.)

Even if the United States did not directly participate in an Israeli air strike on Iran, we would have to allow Israeli jets airspace rights over Iraq. This would be enough to argue that America was “complicit” in an Israeli air attack on Iran. The U.S. might also have to refuel Israeli jets involved in an air strike on Iran. The newest fighters in Israel’s attack force are the Lockheed-Martin manufactured F-16I Soufa (“Storm”) fighters. The second mainstay of the IAF is the 1990s Boeing-built (originally McDonnell Douglas) F-15I Ra’am (“Eagle”) fighter planes. Both aircraft have a strike radius that should extend to targets in Iran without having to be refueled.

Should Iran retaliate and fire a barrage attack of multiple Shahab-3 missiles at the same target, one or more missiles would most likely get through to hit the target. Additionally, Iran would likely target oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, which 90 percent of Persian Gulf oil must traverse. Iran has also purchased eight Russian-built “Sunburn” anti-ship missiles (SS-N-22) from Ukraine and has deployed them for use around the Straits of Hormuz.

Israel could destroy Iran’s most important nuclear facilities by launching a massive air strike designed to last a few days at most. If Iran retaliated in a massive way, Israel could expand the attack on Iran with tactical nuclear weapons, suggesting Israel’s willingness to escalate the conflict if necessary.

The entire world would turn on Israel in a rage. Israel would be punished economically for the attack, and Jewish people worldwide would suffer from renewed persecution and attacks by suicide bombers.

A showdown with a nuclear Iran is imminent. Though we might all wish for the crisis to pass, I fear the moment is at hand where the reality of a nuclear-armed Iran is inevitably upon us all. I pray that we get through the coming test with distinction. I pray that the crisis passes, and that Israel continues to thrive and the United States of America continues to be strong.

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