United States Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, told Washington Post reporter David Ignatius yesterday during an interview that Israel could strike Iran as early as April to take out the Islamic regime′s nuclear weapons program. Panetta said that this would be the time frame before Iran entered the ′immunity zone′, a point when Iran will fortifies all of its facilities such that only the U.S. can destroy them. Several Israeli officials have made statements this week indicating a growing anxiety over Iran′s nuclear ambitions, as well as the country′s evolving missile program. Moshe Yaalon, Minister of Strategic Affairs, warns that Iran′s latest missile system being developed threatens the United States East Coast. Meanwhile, in Tehran, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this morning declared that not only will Iran proceed with its nuclear program but that they will support any nation or group that confronts Israel. The Islamic Republic has been holding naval wargames to demonstrate their ability to close the Strait of Hormuz, from which around 25% of the world′s oil supply is shipped through.

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Tensions are increasing as the United States and the European Union laid new sanctions against Iran over their nuclear program. While Iran officially denies working on nuclear weapon, there is increasing evidence that they are trying harder to produce weapon′s grade material. Some estimates put the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon at one to two years, while others say it could be much sooner. There are those who believe that Iran may already have a weapon and are now rushing to develop a delivery system.

In the last several months, we have seen an increase in what is best described as a ′Shadow War′ between Israel and the West with Iran. Mysterious explosions at research sites and the assassination of Iranian scientists all have the earmarks of a covert intelligence operation of significant scope. The loss of a U.S. stealth drone over Iran shows that Israel is not alone in whatever operations are underway. This week, an experimental Israeli drone, capable of long range surveillance, crashed during a test flight.

Both Intrade and the Las Vegas betting lines show an increase in the likelihood of a war with Iran in the next 6 to 12 months. Call it 3-to-2 for some sort of bombing mission to occur before the end of the year. The cynical among us will say that the Obama administration will create a crisis as an election ploy. But we have been on a collision course with Iran for over 30 years now. Sooner or later, the balloon will go up.

Iran has learned the lessons of the past 20 years of America′s advances in military technology and operational methods. Their research facilities are mostly underground and are spread out. They still have the Russians as an ally to provide them with the latest in air defense systems. As good as stealth technology is in defeating radar, Russian made heat seeking missiles are still considered to be very good and possibly capable of countering stealth.

There is little doubt that if we, the United States, wanted to take out most of Iran′s nuclear program, we could. Israel could probably do so as well if forced to go it alone. The question of course is what would the consequences be? What if we were only able to destroy or cripple 50% of their program in one night′s work? What would happen on Day Two and after?

The situation between Iran, Israel and the United States is certainly becoming more tense. Concerns over the Iranian nuclear weapons program have reached a level where war is imminent. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes that we could see a unilateral airstrike by Israel against Iran as early as April or May before Iran enters the ′immunity zone.′ Sanctions by the United States and the European Union against Iran have increased the potential for a conflict in the Strait of Hormuz. For some 33 years now, the United States and Iran have been on a collision course. The Islamic Republic shows no signs of backing down from its ambitions to develop nuclear weapons or long range missiles to carry them. As always in the case of war, it is the unexpected that is the greatest danger. A biological attack or missiles launched from a disguised freighter by Iran are less the stuff of fiction and something that demands more of our attention.