A few weeks ago I reported that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s last visit to Israel was quite acrimonious. Now we know the reason why. Or at least we know the reason someone in the U.S. government leaked to Haaretz’s Barak Ravid. Until now, Israel had followed an unwritten agreement that it would not attack Iran without coordination (i.e. permission) with the U.S. At his meetings with Netanyahu and Barak, Israel for the first time refused to give such an assurance, despite Panetta’s repeated demand that it do so.
It’s one thing when Sarah Palin “goes rogue” and an entire more dangerous one when a military power like the IDF does:
In his recent visit to Israel, American Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did not get a clear commitment from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israel would not take action against Iranian nuclear facilities without coordinating any such operation with the United States.
According to American officials who were briefed about the visit Panetta made a month ago to Israel, the two Israeli leaders only answered Panetta’s questions regarding Israel’s intentions toward Iran in a general manner.
…Panetta raised the Iranian issue in his talks in Israel with both Netanyahu and Barak. He sought not only to hear about Israel’s intentions but also to underline that the U.S. was interested in full coordination with Israel on the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat. The American defense secretary hinted that the Americans did not want to be surprised by Israel. For their parts, however, Netanyahu and Barak avoided providing a clear response, answering vaguely and in general terms.
This is what led a Pentagon official yesterday to leak to CNN’s security correspondent that the U.S. not only believes Israel might “go rogue,” but that it required positioning surveillance satellites to observe potential Israeli preparations for such an attack. This clearly isn’t the behavior of an ally. More the behavior of a military power deciding to go out on its own. Interesting also that U.S. relations with Israel are so poor on this particular subject that a U.S. official has to leak to an Israeli reporter word of how displeased the Obama administration is with Israel’s obduracy.
These are the actions of an Israeli leader who has taken the relationship to a whole new level. Instead of close coordination, Bibi’s going to go his own way. In the past, most U.S. presidents would’ve communicated in no uncertain terms that there would be consequences. This president can’t or won’t do that. Unlike any president I can remember, Barak Obama is being led by the nose by Bibi. There is no will to establish an independent line that hews to a U.S. interest, which might be at all separate from Israeli interests. There truly is no daylight, as U.S. politicians and presidential candidates like to say, between Israel and the U.S. As the old UJA slogan used to say: “We are One.”
Contrary to the proud American Jews who used that slogan, this is not a good thing. Nations are not Siamese twins. They have separate interests. If they don’t then one is a puppet and the other the puppeteer. We needn’t specify who’s who in this scenario. Has this country sunk so low, has its power and influence been so degraded that an Israeli prime minister pulls our strings?
Here’s two Israeli leaders who are telling the U.S. that they will go their own and that they don’t believe there will be any meaningful consequences as a result. The Obama administration’s management of this relationship has failed utterly and abysmally.
Yossi Melman, with excellent sources within the Mossad, writes what his sources tell him the expected IAEA report will tell the world about Iran’s nuclear intentions. Let’s keep in mind before we go farther that Melman may or may not be telling us what will be in the report when it’s released next week. But he’s surely telling us what the Mossad and Bibi want and expect to be in the report. A clue to how dodgy this leak is is that Melman won’t even tell his readers anything about his source. He merely calls it “a leak:”
Iran is pursuing its nuclear weapons program at the Parchin military base about 30 kilometers from Tehran, diplomatic sources in Vienna say. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to release a report this week on Iran’s nuclear activities.
According to recent leaks, Iran has carried out experiments in the final, critical stage for developing nuclear weapons – weaponization. This includes explosions and computer simulations of explosions. The Associated Press and other media outlets have reported that satellite photos of the site reveal a bus-sized container for conducting experiments.
…Parchin serves as a base for research and development of missile weaponry and explosive material. It also has hundreds of structures and a number of fortified tunnels and bunkers for carrying out explosive experiments.
…According to information leaked to the media, the report will include a 12-page appendix with details including documents and satellite photos that support the contention that, in violation of its international obligations, Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons.
According to a Guardian editorial, the information that may appear in next week’s report is not new. I have no doubt that IAEA has such photographs and documents or something similar to them. But my concern is whether whatever information it has is reliable and credible. The Mossad has a history of releasing documents and evidence of Iranian pursuit of nuclear triggering devices and other means towards weaponization. Most such evidence has been highly suspect. The question for the IAEA is what does it have and how trustworthy is it?
Israel of course wants the world to believe the report will be the smoking gun. Then, according to who you believe, Israel will have sufficient grounds to launch an attack; or else it will expect the world to ratchet up pressure with a new round of sanctions and covert ops including assassinations and cyberwarfare. For the life of me, I can’t see how Israel’s leaders will be satisfied more the same old-same old policies which haven’t moved Iran till now.
Another article in Haaretz today points out that the U.S. no-fly zone over Iraq ends on December 31st. At any point afterward, Israel could violate Iraqi airspace with impunity on its way to attack Iran.
The Guardian lays blame for the impasse partially at Israel’s door:
The reality is that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is seen as a threat for reasons partly of Israel’s own making – foremost its absolute reliance on a policy of military supremacy and deterrence to underpin security. A nuclear-armed Iran would hole that policy below the waterline, making it far more difficult, for instance, to launch the kind of war it waged against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006.
This is a lot closer to the truth of the matter than any hysterical rhetoric about the “mad mullahs” or the year being 1938 and Teheran being Munich. The truth of the matter is that Israel wants no competition for hegemony in the region. When any country or militant group gets to bit for its britches and threatens Israel’s dominance, the IDF takes ’em down a notch or two. Israel knows it cannot take out Iran’s nuclear capability. Further, it knows Iran will only redouble its efforts after an attack. This won’t be like Saddam and Osirak. But Israel’s goal isn’t to dismantle the Iranian program. It’s to fire a warning shot across the bow warning the Iranians of who’s boss and plans to remain so.
Bibi is on record as being deeply suspicious of the goals of the Arab Spring. Israeli hardliners believe it’s an ill wind that blows no good toward the nation’s shores. The Middle East is increasingly a region in which Israel sees Islamists and global jihad–enemies and no friends (with the possible exception of Jordan). That might further fuel Bibi’s desire to show his potential enemies how Israel treats those it views as hostile to its interests.
Now, you may say that this is an insane way to conduct policy putting most of your citizens at risk through counter-attacks solely in order to send a message in blood. I agree. But much of Israeli policy isn’t rational. So what can you do? I suppose some might argue that much of Iranian policy isn’t rational either. That’s why Iran and Israel, their leaders at least, seem made for each other. It’s hard to tell which is more delusional, taunting, and bellicose.
The last word goes to the Guardian editorial:
… Israel risks talking itself into a corner where it appears weak if it doesn’t act and perhaps weaker if it does, a country increasingly bereft of any notion of how to manage relations with its neighbours except through the threat of aggression.
I have an even deeper concern-that is, that this is not just the “threat of aggression,” but rather an act of aggression. One of many in Israeli history when it feels even remotely threatened.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.