Continued from page 5

“Then I think there would probably be some follow-on operations, terrorist operations aboard,” Mr. Eisenstadt added. “I think they will want to strike the U.S. in a way that does not draw the U.S. into a conflict, but enables them to get a cheap shot, to punish the U.S. for supporting Israel.”

Mr. Panetta has warned of Iran’s likely retaliation: “The United States would obviously be blamed, and we could possibly be the target of retaliation from Iran, striking our ships, striking our military bases.”

The American who would have to deal with an Israel-Iran war is Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, chief of U.S. Central Command, which oversees all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

He clearly does not want war, given his remarks this month to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He told senators that Western economic sanctions need more time to work, and perhaps turn the Iranian people against the mullahs.

“They’re very much a problem, and I don’t see this going in the right direction until the full effect of the sanctions can accrue,” Gen. Mattis said. And I say ‘until,’ because even now … we see in inflation going up, unemployment going up [in Iran].

“The internal frictions have got to start telling here. At some point, I think the Iranian people are going to question, ‘Is this the right direction?’

“So if we can keep this at a diplomatic, economic track and get full advantage of what these sanctions are doing and the international isolation is doing, this country basically lacks any significant strategic ally.”