Alex Fishman, following up on his powerful reporting on the potential for an Israeli attack on Iran, traveled to Washington to continue his reporting on the subject. The title of his story, which is headlined on the newspaper’s front page is: The Israeli Threat. This is an ironic play on the usual Israel media headline which blares about the “Iranian threat?” Israelis are loath to think of themselves as the cause of any threat.
Fishman spoke to a “senior State Department official” (odds are he’s referring to Dennis Ross) who relayed to him that the U.S. is “afraid, very afraid” of an Israeli attack:
Articles about preparations by Netanyahu and Barak to take action against Iran frighten the Americans, frighten them a great deal.
There is much chatter about an expected IAEA report next month which, for obvious reasons, war hawks anticipate will provide proof that Iran is intensifying its efforts to turn its nuclear program to military, rather than civilian uses. It’s completely unclear to me how these pro-war, largely Likud and neocon oriented sources know what the report will contain unless it’s been leaked to them (which none of them have indicated is the case).
Fishman’s State Department source uses this expectation regarding the report to bolster his warning about an Israeli attack:
Publication of the report, Washington fears, is liable to encourage Israeli action against Iran: action which may not necessarily fit U.S. interests in the region.
The Yediot correspondent notes that there had been a delay in Israeli plans to attack Iran after military exercises simulating such a strike several years ago. Now the U.S. has a new appreciation of the seriousness of Israel’s resolve. The administration has gone into overdrive regarding this with a single purpose:
To exert much heavier pressure on Iran in order to call Israel off its “attack project.”
It has demanded the UN Security Council pass more draconian sanctions against Iran. The thinking is that this would one way to convince the Israelis that sanctions can turn the Iranians around on the issue of their nuclear program (an assumption that seems doubtful in the extreme). The U.S. official says it has jawboned with the Russians and Chinese, the two nations most opposed to a new round of sanctions, telling them that the alternative to no new sanctions may be an Israeli attack. It remains to be seen whether this argument will work. Frankly, if I were Russian or China it wouldn’t move me. It would only move me if I were a U.S. ally and I was approached to help American interests, which certainly isn’t true of the Russians or Chinese.
The fact that the U.S. source says that warning of an Israeli attack on Iran may make nations opposed to further sanctions more amenable to voting for them, gives rise to doubts about the seriousness of the Israeli resolve to attack. Are the U.S. and Israel merely exploiting this saber-rattling in order to get the Russians and Chinese to vote their way in the UNSC? Many believe this. If this is so, it is not only cynical, I doubt it will work. It will merely convince the world that Israel is Chicken Little, whose word is never to be trusted (a condition Israel has suffered from for quite some time already).
I don’t think Fishman believes the Israeli threat is a ploy, otherwise he wouldn’t be wasting his time flying all the way from Israel to Washington to report on it.
The U.S. is also asking Iran’s supporters on the UNSC to release the IAEA report publicly as part of ratcheting pressure up on the Iranians. But if the report says what Israel’s friends claim it does it will increase pressure to attack Iran and not necessarily create any sense of urgency from the Iranians to negotiate a resolution favorable to the west.
Fishman closes with this passage:
The fear of an Israeli attack on Iran is not just shared by those in the Israeli security establishment–but throughout the world, and certainly in the U.S.–which is also frightened of the possibility of such a strike, which is likely cause a big mess in the region.