Israel is in a political and security quandary.
Officials are convinced it’s only a matter of time before Iran uses its nuclear capability against the Jewish state, living up to the dire threats its leaders have been making for years now.
But Israeli leaders also fear they will lose the window of opportunity to deal a devastating military blow to Iran’s nuclear development if such a strike is not conducted by October of this year.
Because they believe Barack Obama has a reasonable expectation of being re-elected to the White House – and, if he is, he is likely, unconstrained by concerns about a future election, to be a political liability in the wake of such an action.
However, if the strike is made prior to the election, Obama is much more likely not to condemn Israel. It just wouldn’t be a popular political move for him. Even most Democrats in the U.S. Congress will support Israel’s right to defend itself.
But here’s the quandary – not only for Israel but for Americans who want to see Obama defeated in 2012: Will that kind of “October surprise” indeed help Obama to win the election?
Most Israeli leaders don’t want to see that. But what choice do they have when their nation’s survival is at stake?
Historically speaking, sitting presidents have a distinct political advantage during worldwide military crises. Will that be the case for Obama in the wake of a major military strike on Iran in October, just weeks or days before the vote?
On the one hand, most Israeli leaders would like to see Obama, the harshest critic of Israel ever to reside in the White House, be defeated in November. But, on the other hand, they have their own nation’s self-interest hanging in the balance.
Likewise, most Americans will have no problem with Israel defending itself, especially those most likely to oppose Obama in November, but will they be willing to change horses in the middle of an international crisis?
No one is talking about this, but because the November election is likely to be close, this “October surprise” could well provide the tipping point for Obama.
Or, are Americans so fed up with the deteriorating economy and the leadership of Obama that they will overlook instability in the world and vote their pocketbooks and good sense?
I don’t know the answer to this question, but it’s something to think about.
The likelihood of this attack is growing. The timing is nearly predictable. Yet, Americans and the U.S. media have not focused much attention on it.
The only thing that might change the equation is if Mitt Romney soars far ahead of Obama in the polls, effectively buying Israel more time to make its strike without major political fallout from the U.S.
As it stands now, the election is too close to call – and, in the minds of Israeli leaders, the strong possibility of an Obama re-election must be considered in the equation. As long as that is the case, you can take it to the bank that October is the likely time for a strike on Iran.
Personally, I am much more optimistic that Obama will be voted out of office in November. But I wouldn’t bet my life on it. And neither is Israel willing to bet its life on it.
That’s why 2012’s “October surprise” might not be so surprising at all – for those who understand the politics of the Middle East.