Barack Obama is playing a very dangerous game regarding Iran. He speaks to Israeli leaders like Bibi Netanyahu and his pro-Israel supporters in Aipac like an Iran hawk, placating them with suitably hawkish rhetoric. While the very next day, he tells a White House press conference those who lobby for war that “this is not a game.” He added, in a deliberate rebuff both to the Republican right and Netanyahu himself, that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon and isn’t likely to get one for some time.
He knows the pro-Israel audience needs to hear him say he is willing to commit America’s might to the fight against Iran. But he also knows the American people don’t want another war. In essence, he’s violating an old and very wise Yiddish saying: You can’t dance at two weddings with one tush.
His calculation is something like this: while the pro-Israel constituency is electorally important, Israel per se isn’t. So if he offends Bibi Netanyahu by not going to war against Iran that’s no skin off his back. It’s American Jews he must finesse. He’s banking on speeches like the one he made at Aipac, which gave the appearance of a president on the cusp of war (while not quite being there), providing some breathing room. The key thing is to maneuver politically so that neither side (the pro and anti-war) can accuse him of betraying its interests and appear credible doing so.
I think he may have also come to the feeling that ultimately, he cannot stop Israel from attacking Iran if it is hell bent on doing so. To prevent an Israeli strike, might create bad blood with American Jewish pro Israel leadership. Besides, if Israel does attack Iran both may come out with bloodied noses and this too could serve Obama in the long run both to bring a chastened Israel to heel, and to whup the Ayatollahs upside the head.
What could happen however, is that he will end up severely angering the Israelis and their American supporters by talking out of both sides of his mouth. The Iranians too may not be convinced by the act and treat him like an empty suit. There are very few politicians who can carry this off persuasively. Bill Clinton was one. But I don’t think Obama has near the finesse Clinton had.
Part of this dangerous game is a story published in today’s Haaretz saying that a U.S. official recounted that Bibi had requested from the U.S. bunker buster bombs along with extra refueling tankers that would be critical for an Israeli attack:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the United States approve the sale of advanced refueling aircraft as well as GBU-28 bunker-piercing bombs to Israel during a recent meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The American official said that U.S. President Barack Obama instructed Panetta to work directly with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the matter, indicating that the U.S. administration was inclined to look favorably upon the request as soon as possible.
The model of armament Bibi requested is not our most advanced bunker buster (that is the GBU 57), so it could not penetrate the Fordow nuclear facility Iran has built. That means that Israel could severely bloody the Iranians, it would still not be able to deliver a knock-out blow against Iran’s nuclear capability, which is what most analysts have been saying all along. This might suit Obama if it sets the stage for a return to the bargaining table with an Iran that has been suitably humbled and possibly more willing to deal.
Though Obama’s purported statement above is not a promise and many things could happen between now and whenever Israel expects those weapons, to make it not happen, giving them to Israel will make an attack that much more likely. That’s why I grow more and more convinced there will be one in the coming months.
For me, Bibi looks more and more like an arab leader, boasting and showing muscles and at the end doing nothing.
This a true integration in the middle-east.
At least we can be happy of that.
I think that the Iranian bomb is already done and was tested in North Korea.
An israelian attack will have as only consequence the withdrawal of Iran from the non proliferation treaty and this is the only thing that the Obama administration wants to avoid.
marc b. says
so what does this mean in the context of the stratfor leaks which purport to show that israel has already knocked out iran’s nuclear program from the ground?
Marc, if you have a look at those leaked Em’s it’s clear StratFor doesn’t have a clue about much of anything.
The claim that the Iran nuke program was knocked out was just StratFor VP Fred Burton’s mental farting.
Those people know less about it than regular commentators here. In fact it looks to me like they are just taking Richard’s posts and re-packaging them for sale to BP et al.
marc b. says
agreed, denis. i don’t believe that israeli and kurdish ground forces caused much, if any, damage to iranian nuclear facilities.
Omama is just playing the 1st term shuffle.
He needs to keep Bibi off his back and AIPAC in play until Nov. and then he can tell them both to go fly a kite.
Bibi and AIPAC know that and so they try to suck as many promises and war toys out of him now as they can. The question is: will Bibi force Omama’s hand by some outrageous but typical IDF stunt.
Noam Chomsky recently quoted Gen. Lee Butler formerly head of US Strategic Command as saying Israel’s nukes are “dangerous in the extreme.” Chomsky quoted US Army Col. Warner Farr as saying that Israel would use their nukes on the US to ensure US support.
So, why do we keep giving them $$ and adding to their weapons toy box?
I love the idea that US is going to SELL the GBU’s to Israel. What is Israel going to pay with? The $3+ billion they just got in Obama’s budget. IOW, the good old reliable US taxpayer gets rolled for another round.
In the mean time education and infrastructure get the ax.
Every president since Truman has been condemned to “the 1st term shuffle.” They would be fools if they didn’t, and I would think infinitely less of Obama if he didn’t.
Agreed. We need to see BO’s double-talk w/in the context of his election goals to make sense of his hypocrisy.
We won’t know until sometime in Dec or Jan where BO is with respect to attacking Iran. Perhaps photo sessions at Walter Reed are just play-acting to convince the voters that he really does care, and next year we’ll forget all that when he sends 50,000 US kids into the maw. Just like we’ve all forgotten how as a senator BO pledged to filibuster FISA in 2008.
50,000’s of canon fodder aren’t even a drop in the bucket of what will be needed to fight a war with Iran. Make no mistakes, aerial and naval bombardment of Iran with not do the trick in cowing or clearing the Hormuz straits from Iranian interdiction and retaliation. And the US will never again be the first to us nukes. We have yet to live down Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even though in the long run it saved more lives and needless suffering.
That country will have to be invaded by land & sea and conquered. Such an effort will require far more than the paltry, understrength combat brigades in both the army and the marines to get the job done. We are looking at conscription at the least, and very possibly the militarization of the US economy & society should the Iranians prove a far tougher nut to crack than what fools claim who are proselytizing for war.
War with Iran will not only be disastrous for Obama, but for the country and possibly our republic.
The Iranians have been tunneling under the Zagros mountains and its many parallel sub ranges for years. It will take far more explosive power than our latest 5,000 pounds of explosives in a 15 ton conventional bunker buster to knock out Iran’s nuclear program.
America’s warriors know what Israels Tinkerbell’s and Pixies refuse to acknowledge; its already too late to destroy or even temporarily stop Iran’s nuclear program. The only game left to play is diplomacy and negotiation, no matter how grievous that is to the Israelis and winds up compromising their hegemony and belligerence in the region.
Go ahead, attack Kuwait, they winked at Saddam…
Piotr Berman says
Actually, bunker busters make sense against Hezbollah bunkers. They make awkward payload for a very large distance. “Class I” shelter is probably an equivalent of a mine, with corridors that can go even for miles, with zigzags and dams to dampen shocks of explosions and multiple exits.
What Hezbollah needs is hundreds of decoy bunkers and many real bunkers, and some command centers. Israel publicized its estimate that Hezbollah has 1500 sites. In the war conditions, they can use a bunker with stored missiles once. They also need their infantry to survive and defend fixed position.
I am not sure if carrying bunker trusters to Iran is a good idea. There will be definitely some air defenses and some payload has to be devoted to handle them. Israel will not be able to resort to a standard tactic, multiple waves where initial sorties handle air defences — in Libya, NATO spend some sweet time doing that.
Perhaps in Iran context, bunker trusters have the role of proverbial rope.
Now is the time for Obama to earn that Nobel Peace Prize.
My impression is that he has done just that.
We must bear in mind that whatever he does is tempered by elections-year considerations. Good for him and good for us (considering the alternative).
Fred Plester says
Israel does not possess any aircraft capable of delivering the GBU57 at any range. This weapon is nearly 50% heavier than the “Grand Slam” of WW2 (although containing less than half the amount of explosive. The Grand Slam and Tallboy bombs were not actually designed to penetrate bunkers (this happened by accident sometimes); they were intended by their designer to penetrate nearby soil deeply enough to “couple” a massive shockwave into the ground that would find the bunker’s weak spots.)
It doesn’t seem as if even the B52 (at least the models still in service) can safely carry and release the GBU57.
Only the B2 is cleared to carry this weapon. The problem with the B52 is probably what happens aerodynamically to the aircraft’s tail as the bomb leaves the weapons bay. One of the strengths of the flying wing design of the B2 is that the aircraft doesn’t have a tail sitting many yards back from the bomb bay, right where any vortex formed by the bomb might hit it.
The only jet bomber ever cleared, that I know of, to carry the Grand Slam and Tallboy bombs was the Handley Page Victor, which had a T-tail sitting above the probable path of any vortex from the bomb.
The USAF did have stocks of licence-built Grand Slams and deployed them on B29 (propellor) bombers into the fifties. A guidance kit was made, but the weapon was designed for a near-miss, which a B2 could surely achieve if any could be found and dusted off. We know they still work, because the “dummy” gate guard Grand Slam at one RAF base turned out to be all too real: it was taken to a bombing range and detonated (after forty years of undetected menace), with undiminished vigor.
So, if the USAF were really minded to, they could destroy deeply buried facilities which a GBU-28, or even GBU57, wouldn’t scratch. But only with vintage munitions and a B2 as delivery system.
All current bunker-busters are designed on a faulty premise: the idea of actually getting the bomb inside the target and detonating it there.
Israel, for all its military vanity, cannot even begin to do the job and would be best advised not to try.
The B2, you say? says
I agree that the B2 is the only bomber that can tote the only bomb that has a hope of taking out Fordow.
Now, look at the cost of a B2 and ask yourself when the USAF would ever risk one of those billion-dollar behemoths.
Answer: only where there is absolutely, positively, not the slightest chance of someone taking a pot-shot at them.
If the Iranians have even a single F-4 Phantom or F-14 Tomcat left then the USAF will not risk a B2 over Iranian airspace.
If the Iranians have even one S-300 missile on a launch-rail then those B2’s will stay on the ground.
They USAF will not risk those planes in a hostile environment, which means that any American attack on Iran won’t be a “surgical strike” but will – of necessity – be a long-drawn-out “air campaign”.
A grinding campaign that has to take out every plane that the Iranians have, and every missile site and C&C radar that they possess.
And I’m not sure that fits into the narrative that the gung-ho warmongers are trying to spin…..
Wait, wait . . . don’t tell me. You mean OB has offered to sell Bibi GBU57’s that Israel can’t even get off the ground, much less drop on Iran??
Is this deal pre-paid or C.O.D.?
Is Bibi a sucker, or what. Except that Bibi is paying for the bombs with the $3.2B US taxpayers’ money BO gave Israel this year; what does he care?
So, the whole thing goes down like this:
US taxpayer pays taxes -> $3.2B taxes go to Israel -> Israel sends tens of millions back to US congress via AIPAC superPAC donors to ensure Israel gets even more money in next year’s budget -> Israel uses part of $3.2B US taxpayers’ money to buy GBU57 MOP that Israel can’t even lift off the ground from Northrop -> OB gives or loans Israel B2 so they can get the bomb in the air -> Israel firsters give OB votes and money in appreciation.
Palestinians keep getting shafted. Iran gets bombed. Hundreds of thousands of US young people go off to fight another idiot ME war. Congress lives well. OB lives well. Northrop lives well. Bibi lives well.
Jon Stewart, if you’re following this, can you write something up? Surely this is a joke.
delia ruhe says
As I wrote last night in despondence at the Race For Iran site, “Like all of the doubletalkers around this issue, Obama wants to have it both ways. He wants people like M.J. Rosenberg to announce happily that the prez has stood up to Bibi (which M.J. has done), and he wants Bibi and the AIPAC crowd to understand the prez as having given Israel his unconditional support (which he actually has).”
The only thing that remains to be seen is whether Bibi will force Obama’s hand before or after the election. The other purpose of this doubletalk, including Obama’s criticisms of the GOP’s warmongering is to make this lead up to war appear unlike the lead up to the Iraq fiasco.
There is one big important thing that makes this situation different than the lead up to Iraq: none of the 16 or more US intelligence agencies are backing up the anti-Iran propaganda — and one of Obama’s two faces is focused intently on American intelligence.
I wish he’d talk more about dialing down the war-mongering — because the stronger he is about this, the more independent of Israel he sounds. And there will be people who will hold him to that.
The irony is delicious says
Netanyahu asks for bunker-busters, quick! Tankers, now!
Obama tells him to talk to Panetta, and Panetta says “Come, Bibi, come and talk to me”.
One thing an Israeli PM knows how to do is… talk. And talk. And talk.
They’ll do that for years, because they know that all the while they are wasting the time of the person they are talking to.
Yep. Israeli politicians know how to talk but – and how funny is this? – they can’t spot it when that same shtick is being done to them.
Bibi has asked for bunker-busters, and it would be downright rude for Panetta to blow him off.
Panetta’s not rude. He’ll talk. And talk. And talk.
But Bibi won’t get those bunker-busters.
And he definitely won’t get those tankers.
RS – again respectful disagreement:
Netanyahoo will not chance an attack without full American support because the Israeli electorate demands that American support.
As to the “bunker busters” the words “purported” not “reported” and “promise” not “commitment” are noted.
Apologies – there are numerous “reports” citing “unnamed Western diplomats and intelligence sources”.