While a lot of the media focus in the run-up to the elections has been on domestic US politics, we should not ignore the fact that the government of Israel has been dropping hints of imminent war with Iran. As Stephen Walt says, Israel has raised the stakes by saying that they not only will they not let Iran develop nuclear weapons or the capability of making them, they will not even tolerate the Iranians having the theoretical capacity of doing so at some unspecified time down the road, a much lower threshold.
Walt says that despite this belligerent rhetoric, Israel realizes that it simply does not have the military or political muscle to attack Iran on its own, and so they and their allies in the US have been trying to get the US to do its work for them.
Together with the Netyanyahu government, these groups want to keep ramping up the war talk in order to slowly paint the United States into a corner. The reason is simple: Israel does not have a strategically meaningful military option of its own, because the IAF cannot do enough damage to Iran’s nuclear facilities to end its program once and for all. To prevent any sort of Iranian nuclear capacity, therefore, requires the United States to take the lead in enforcing sanctions and if necessary, to fight another war.
The Israelis know that they cannot do the job themselves, and their larger aim is to keep attention riveted on Tehran (and not on settlement expansion) and to make sure that if war does come, the United States does the heavy lifting.
In short, all this war talk is a bluff, but one can scarcely blame Israel for employing a tactic that keeps working so well. It’s our fault we keep falling for it.
The election season is a time when the two parties are even more eager than usual to pander to Israel so it is a dangerous time, not necessarily because they will initiate a war in the run up to the elections but because Obama and Romney will be so eager to show their fealty to Israel that they might up their own warmongering rhetoric to a level from which they will find it hard to extricate themselves after the elections.