There have been endless recent visits to Israel from high-ranking U.S. officials regarding the Iran issue, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and most recently National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. The AP reports that during the last set of meetings the Israelis defiantly told the U.S. that if they attacked Iran, they would leave the U.S. in the dark. Here’s how Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee put it:
Rogers told CNN on Monday: “I got the sense that Israel is incredibly serious about a strike on their nuclear weapons program. It’s their calculus that the administration … is not serious about a real military consequence to Iran moving forward.
“They believe they’re going to have to make a decision on their own, given the current posture of the United States,” he added.
Now, Israel’s two top leaders head to Washington for separate sets of talks in the coming days. Bibi comes for his annual triumphal curtain call before the Aipac national conference. There he will certainly repeat his baleful predictions of what a world with Iranian nukes would be like. It could be his last speech in this country before an Israeli attack.
It’s uncertain what he will discuss with Pres. Obama, with whom he will meet. The president seems more the supplicant than the officiant in this relationship. He doesn’t want Israel to attack. But both he and Bibi know that he doesn’t have the will to stop him. It feels to me like possibly the final stop on the way to war.
Obama is so desperate, if this account is to be believed, that he’s offered Israel use of our Middle East bases from which to launch its attack at a later date:
U.S. intelligence and special operations officials have tried to keep a dialogue going with Israel despite the high-level impasse, offering options such as allowing Israel to use U.S. bases in the region to launch such a strike, as a way to make sure the Israelis give the Americans a heads-up, according to the U.S. official and a former U.S. official with knowledge of the communications.
The idea that Israel would use U.S. bases or that we would consider allowing the Israelis to do so seems wild and far-fetched. But if true, it indicates just how far and how harebrained we’ve grown in latching on to something, anything to stop the Israelis.
From the tone of this Wall Street Journal article, it appears that Bibi is coming to Washington seeking a virtual guarantee that the U.S. will attack Iran if Israel does not do so. Israel’s chief Congressional water carriers (in this case Sen. Lindsay Graham) also appear to think that such a promise is the least Obama can offer our ever faithful ally:
“The president needs to be reassuring to the Israelis that the policy of the United States is etched in stone: we will do everything, including military action, to stop a nuclear-armed Iran. I hope the administration when they talk about ‘all options’ will better define what those options are. We’re getting too far into the game to be overly nuanced now.”
I’m beginning to feel like a character in a movie watching a train barreling down the track. He knows there will be a crash, and a disaster to follow. There’s nothing he can do to stop it. He can only watch and wait for the crunch of steel and the screeching of brakes that cannot stop it in time.
In a related matter, an Israeli publication, Inyan Merkazi, writes (based on a Russian media report) that Avigdor Lieberman, who is known to have an exceedingly close relationship with the Kremlin, was told by Vladimir Putin to oppose an Israeli attack on Iran. There are those within Israel who believe the current foreign minister is a Russian intelligence asset, not just a close Russian political ally, though these are so far rumors rather than proven fact.
One way to test the theory is to watch which way Lieberman votes in the ministerial meeting at which an Israeli attack much be approved. If Lieberman votes No, you’ll have a pretty decent indication of where his bread is buttered. If he votes Yes, then at least according to this report, he’ll be biting the Russian hand that feeds him, indicating he is much more of an independent figure than many believe.
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.