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.
Fishman’s analysis doesn’t sound right. Inside the United States, within the Obama administration itself, there seems to be a concerted effort to “warm up” the American public to the idea of a war with Iran. We are receiving the FOX News equivalent of meat tenderizer every day. Holder and Clinton announce a bizarre assassination scheme and provide no evidence. Obama sells bunker busters to Israel. Obama announces plans to move troops in Iraq to Kuwait, not return to the United States. Something’s going to happen early next year. If Fishman confuses the shivering for U.S. trembling, he’s wrong. They’re shivering out of excitement and impatience to launch another war.
Fred Plester says
The only Western forces readily available to Iranian retaliation for an Israeli strike, are American and mostly in Doha. (Assuming that Iranian leaders can see the profound wisdom in not striking at Americans on Turkish soil.)
This may cause the US President to take a very different line to that being cheer-led byAIPAC-controlled hangers-on in his baggage train who present themselves as part of “The Administration.”
The fact that the Israeli lobby has dominated American politics for several decades, does not mean that America won’t become anti-Israeli overnight if it’s Americans coming home in body bags whilst Israel successfully uses Syria and the Gulf states as a shield to hide behind as it lobs spears at Iran.
Iran, meanwhile, is experiencing what amounts to a three way power struggle, between Supreme Leader, President and People. Three body problems are too complicated to solve: there is no way that Israeli intelligence can predict the outcome of any interference, which is probably why they are no longer enthusiasts for a strike.
They cannot even say with certainty who, in Iran’s parallel power structures, will end up with control over the response. So they cannot predict the response.
They need to wait until it’s at least down to two sides in Iran before they do anything, and at that point they may find they do not have to do anything.
Michael Pollak says
In re the IAEA report: actually there is no need for the pro-attack forces to know the contents of the forthcoming report. The style of the reports is very consistent, and no matter how dismissive they are Iran’s capacity, they are always scrupulous to say “we cannot rule out X” until they get full disclosure of all prior documentation. This was true even under el-Baradei. Every time the report came out, most of the MSM accepted a pro-attack spin that highlighted that paragraph and ignored the rest. IIRC, there has never been an IAEA report since 2003 that didn’t increase the clamor for war with Iran when it came out based on this fail safe technique. The long explanations showing that the real drift of the report was the opposite never get much play. And since Iran has now stockpiled enough mildly enriched uranium to theoretically make a bomb if it was all re-enriched — which not that many years ago was widely called the red line — there are now twice as many paragraphs they can make into battle horn soundbites.