Israel and Iran: posturing or something more sinister?

So, Israeli shows off its fighter jets. Iran responds by test-firing missiles twice. Israel unveils new spy plane.

Is this just posturing between old enemies, or is this a very strong warning from both sides that we could be on the brink of a new war, one that involves two states? Does Israel, or does Iran, have anything to gain from war?

The answer, to my mind, is no. A definite: Iran will not strike first. If they do so, I think they immediately lose any support they could hope for from Moscow or Beijing. As for Israel, an attack would make life very difficult for Washington, which is opposed to military force as the first solution in dealing with Iran — and it would give John McCain, and perhaps moreso Barack Obama, headaches.

It would probably scupper plans of Senator Obama’s to talk directly, without preconditions, to President Ahmadinejad of Iran — he would lose Jewish support (or whatever is left of it, since he’s still stressing he will speak with Iran) in a hurry. The U.S. would support Israel at the UN, probably reluctantly, but they can’t afford to be seen as leaving their allies in the lurch.

As for the current standoff, this has already triggered new conflict between Washington and Moscow, over Washington’s planned missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. Washington says Iran’s test proves the need for them to protect their interests in Europe; Moscow says Iran’s test proves that their missiles do not have the range to threaten Europe and the U.S. shield is an aggressive act against Russia.

In the world of tense relations between two great superpowers — and between two Middle Eastern states each of the superpowers back to an extent — I think the answer is, you’ll never know what is going to happen until it happens.

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