Our President was criticized for his possibly precipitate withdrawal from Iraq. However, in evaluating the mechanics of a hypothetical Israeli attack on Iran the NY Times notes an unheralded subtlety:
Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets
WASHINGTON — Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran’s air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously — and use at least 100 planes.
Given that Israel would want to strike Iran’s four major nuclear sites — the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo, the heavy-water reactor at Arak and the yellowcake-conversion plant at Isfahan — military analysts say the first problem is how to get there. There are three potential routes: to the north over Turkey, to the south over Saudi Arabia or taking a central route across Jordan and Iraq.
The route over Iraq would be the most direct and likely, defense analysts say, because Iraq effectively has no air defenses and the United States, after its December withdrawal, no longer has the obligation to defend Iraqi skies. “That was a concern of the Israelis a year ago, that we would come up and intercept their aircraft if the Israelis chose to take a path across Iraq,” said a former defense official who asked for anonymity to discuss secret intelligence.
I assume the US would not have scrambled jets to tangle with the Israeli Air Force, but failing to do so might have antagonized Iraqis unhappy with our taking Israel's side, and putting Iraq on Israel's side, in the effort against Iran. So now the US can keep its hands clean diplomatically. That contradicts what John McCain said last November:
And McCain said the withdrawal will hurt Iraq and benefit its long-time regional rival. "It is hard to see the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq as anything but a win for Iran," he said.
Well, it increases the challenge faced by Iran's diplomats and air defense planners. Who suspected Obama the Peacemaker was actually laying the groundwork for a bit of warmogering? USA Today noted this airspace argument a few days ago, but I have not seen it widely discussed. (OK, we aren't going to start blogging about my areas of ignorance, there being only 24 hours in the day...)