Prime Minister Netanyahu: crazy like a fox?(Jack Guez-Pool/Getty Images)

There has certainly been plenty of, shall we say, chatter about an Israeli strike on Iran—Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly trying to persuade the Cabinet of its wisdom; Bibi then ordering a probe of leaks of Israel’s preparation; dissension among the top brass; the frickin’ ballistic missile test outside Tel Aviv Wednesday morning; President Obama offering strong rhetoric; and even a Guardian report that Britain is amping up contingency planning for military action against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

None of this actually has to do with the International Atomic Energy Agency report due out next week that is expected to show further Iranian progress and intransigence, right? (Here’s a thought experiment: What if the United States has yanked its IAEA funding by the time the report comes out?) This is for real, and not just deliberate bluster designed to be the stick (the report being the carrot) to goad the international community to further isolating Iran, surely? “Reasonable citizens, at this point quite worried, should take into consideration that a great deal is happening covertly,” write our friends Amos and Avi in Haaretz (and incidentally, even in light of the latest machinations, the Israeli public appears divided on the question of military action). “At least some of these moves are part of a carefully orchestrated campaign whose purpose is not necessarily an Israeli attack. It could be a means of sparking a broad diplomatic maneuver to ratchet up sanctions on Iran.”

They add:

While many people say Netanyahu and [Defense Miniseter] Barak are conducting sophisticated psychological warfare and don’t intend to launch a military operation, top officials, including some in the forum of eight senior ministers, are still afraid.

Ostensibly, Israel is in a win-win situation. If its scare tactics work, the international community will impose paralyzing sanctions on Iran. If the world falls asleep at its post, there are alternatives.

But this is a dangerous game. A few more weeks of tension and one party or another might make a fatal mistake that will drag the region into war.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Israel and Iran Are Fighting a War of Nerves [Haaretz]