Reuters is reporting that several well-placed Israeli sources are confirming both that the senior government leadership has gone into “lockdown” mode regarding Iran indicating that something is afoot; and that the decision to attack Iran has already been made and that the strike will come before the U.S. elections. From an independent source, I’ve learned that one of the informants for this article is the regular source of my Israeli national security scoops. So I take the comments in this article with even more seriousness than I normally would.
Here are some of the more disturbing comments in the article:
“The top of the government has gone into lockdown,” one official said. “Nobody is saying anything publicly. That in itself tells you a lot about where things stand.”
…A senior Western diplomat said: “Whatever happens next, whatever they decide, we will not find out until it happens.”
A general rule of thumb in Israel is that if the top pols and generals are leaking like a sieve they haven’t made a final decision on what to do. When they go dead silent, that’s what you know something’s up. According to the writer of this story, when he asked Shaul Mofaz about his views on an Iran attack, he would say nothing. That too is not a good sign (unless you favor war).
Here are comments from a second source:
“I think they have made a decision to attack,” said one senior Israeli figure with close ties to the leadership. “It is going to happen. The window of opportunity is before the U.S. presidential election in November. This way they will bounce the Americans into supporting them.”
Sorry, but I don’t buy the last sentence. There’s no way that the U.S. will support an Israeli attack. Especially not during election season. The best Israel can hope for is that Obama doesn’t do an Eisenhower and demand that Israel immediately cease fire and pull back as Ike did in 1956. Nowadays, Israel is too powerful for most American presidents to stand up to in this fashion. So if the current president merely does what he did during the 2009 Gaza war and sits back and says nothing, that too is an Israeli victory. Presumably a silent Obama would also be sending Israel the munitions it would need to penetrate Iranian defenses and its fortified nuclear sites.
If however, Obama gets gumption and takes even a marginally public stand opposing the attack, Bibi could be in for a very hard time since most of the rest of the world will be watching carefully and be emboldened by such criticism from Israel’s patron.
Time Magazine has put Bibi Netanyahu on its cover with the unironic headline: Bibi: King of Israel. Frankly, I think it’s way overblown and profoundly misunderstands Bibi’s political ideology. Among the liberal Zionist constituency (and that includes most of the mainstream media) there seems to be this starry-eyed belief that Bibi is DeGaulle or even Ariel Sharon, and that he has within him deep down a wish to make history by bringing peace to his people. This new coalition, so the narrative goes, gives him the opportunity to ditch his recalcitrant Orthodox and settler allies and strike a compromise from strength with the Palestinians.
That’s very nice as far as it goes, which isn’t very far. It is totally at variance with Bibi’s every political inclination. This coalition, if anything, is meant to inoculate him from the contagion represented by what I sketched above. In other words, his goal isn’t to strike out in a new direction. Rather, his goal is to seal the status quo in amber (or for a more colorful quote via Dov Weissglas, to “soak it in formaldehyde”). The more support he gathers round him the more easily he can withstand pressure from erstwhile allies like the U.S. or other western nations that might clamor for change.
As for Bibi being king: history is replete with scores of political leaders who won huge victories or scored political coups only to fritter them away and end up defeated. Bibi’s political history is riddled with failure and unrealized expectations. This episode will end the same way. So call him “king” if you like. But it won’t (and can’t) last.
Finally, Meir Dagan has signed on with a motley crew of cast-offs from the Bush administration and other pro-war hawks associated with United Against a Nuclear Iran. Together, they’ve crafted a Wall Street Journal op-ed that calls for virtually walling off the entire nation of Iran from the outside world. It’s a call for a blockade without the use of military force. Though the piece doesn’t call for war (which presumably Dagan wouldn’t have been willing to sign), it goes even farther down the dreary road of sanctions than anyone’s ever gone. For Dagan, who’s made one step forward with his courageous anti-war stand, this piece is a half-step back again.