For the last year or so, the world has been on high alert that a war between Iran and Israel could start at any moment. In no small part, the tension was fueled by Israeli pronouncements that the country would launch airstrikes on Iran's nuclear facilities barring a complete shutdown of its program. But now, a series of developments have given analysts and observers hope that an immediate military confrontation may not be imminent. Here are the latest signs.
Disputes inside Israel. As The New York Times' James Risen reports today, a growing divide between political and military leaders in Israeli whether an attack should be carried out has reduced immediate fears. "The latest comments came from Yuval Diskin, the former chief of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, who on Friday said Mr. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak should not be trusted to determine policy on Iran," writes Risen. "He said the judgments of both men have been clouded by 'messianic feelings.' Mr. Diskin, who was chief of Shin Bet until last year, said an attack against Iran might cause it to speed up its nuclear program." Additionally, Israel's army chief of staff gave the impression that the Iran nuclear threat isn't quite as far along as others suggested.
Peace talks have been working. Nobody places much hope in the "P5 +1" peace talks aimed at staving off a war between the two countires but as The Atlantic's James Fallows notes, " there are many recent reports suggesting that the talks were not an automatic and instant failure. Here are a few: from The Los Angeles Times' Ramin Mostaghim, another from the LAT's Paul Richter, from the BBC, and from Bloomberg's Jones Hayden. The stories depict an Iran skeptical but ultimately open to overtures from the U.S. on limiting its civilian nuclear program. One such plan would allow Iran to enrich uranium to 5 percent purity.
Netanyahu appears to be itching for early elections Another short-term save could be Israel's election cycle, according to The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg. He says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has an incentive to spring for early elections sooner rather than later. "He's popular right now, the opposition is weak, and he looks to be going to try to solidify his hold on power, and possibly re-order his coalition, to bring in centrist parties and dump some of the lunatics in his cabinet," writes Goldberg. "It makes little political sense for him to launch an attack on Iran in the run-up to an election."
The White House has an oil incentive. There's another big reason the Obama administration will try to stave off war: It could hurt the president's re-election prospects. According to Risen, "the White House appears determined to prevent any confrontation that could disrupt world oil markets in an election year." Independent groups have estimated that oil prices would skyrocket if Israel strikes Iran and a war ensues.