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.
I’m not surprised by Dagan. His stated opposition to war means that he’s more pragmatic, not necessarily that he’s morally any better than the pro-war crowd.
Richard Silverstein says
Absolutely. He would topple Iran’s government by any means necessary if he could get away with it. But I’ll take pragmatism if I can’t get a moral opposition to war.
Brilliant piece Richard, loved the Meir Dagan ‘motley crew of castoffs’ which is what they are. He is caught between a rock and a hard stone, he knows the neo cons are history yet knows that a call for war will alienate people. Even the pro Israel crowd are anti war. Which, is what I meant in the BBC poll thread, when I said, it depends on what you mean by support, because no country puts another before it’s own interests.
I Wonder.... says
Maybe the simplest explanation for the “lockdown” is the best: Bibi and barak are both out of the country, and the rest of his coalition is so colourless that they simply don’t KNOW what to say, much less have the courage to say it.
It’s just as likely that the US shuts Israel down as it is that they support them.
A unilateral mad dog attack with the risk of region wide conflict is not in the US’s or NATO’s favour.
Joe Blum says
The reason the attack is planed before the presidential elecetisons is to force Obama to support. There’s no way in hell he will oppose, even in the slightest manner before the elections. The Republicans will kick his ass, and this will become the main elections issue. It will also hurt Obama among the Jews who’s support he currently has, but if he dears to oppose, they’ll abandon him on the spot.
In addition Bibi will use his influence on the American public, and they will also hurt Obama, who’ll be seen as a president that doesn’t come to the help of a supposedly close ally.
The scenario of him not stronly supporting the attack is a political suicide. He’ll even be forced to leak that he was in the loop all along…
Richard Silverstein says
What a blithering idiot to think that Barack Obama is going to robotically respond to Israeli commands. But I do love the simplistic mechanistic view of Israeli mind control over U.S. presidential politics.
Joe Blum says
It will absolutely not be a robotical response and not evil Israeli “mind control”, but a cold, well thought of, and tactically sound expected action by the US president, for the following reasons:
1. keeping Jewish voters happy.
2. Not letting Republicans take control over the elecetions’ main agenda. (Obama is considered weak on Security issues – and you know that).
3. Not looking like someone who “betrays” a close ally at a difficult time and as a result loosing votes among many Israel-loving Christian Democrats (and there are many such voters – even it you find it hard to accept/admit).
4. Oil prices: Opposing Israel or even not strongly supporting it, will make Obama look like he’s surrendering to the Iranian’s threats and/or actions to raise oil prices or even block the straits of Hormuz. A more reasonable response to such actions (it terms of voters’ popularity) is acting srongly against Iran, together with Israel.
There are many more reasons I’m too bored to mention, and I’m sure you can think of yourself.
But I bet you won’t be able to find a single serious reason for him to oppose, without loosing the elecetions over it.
We both know that personally, Obama is strongly against an Israeli attack, but he’s a political beast, and he must adhere to the rules of the game in order to win the elecetions.
If you were his political advisor at that point in time, you would have advised to storngly support Israel, otherwise you’ld be ill-servicing your job.
If he’s reelected, he’ll be very powerful and hostile to Israel, and he’ll be able to prevent any Israeli action (even by ordering shooting down Israeli planes).
That’s the scenario Barak and Bibi are terrified of – and this is exactly why they have to act before the elecetions.
An opinion is like an asshole – everyone’s got one.
Well, that was mine…
>>>keeping Jewish voters happy.<<>>Not letting Republicans take control over the elecetions’ main agenda. (Obama is considered weak on Security issues – and you know that).<<>>Not looking like someone who “betrays” a close ally at a difficult time and as a result loosing votes among many Israel-loving Christian Democrats (and there are many such voters – even it you find it hard to accept/admit).<<>>Oil prices: Opposing Israel or even not strongly supporting it, will make Obama look like he’s surrendering to the Iranian’s threats and/or actions to raise oil prices or even block the straits of Hormuz. A more reasonable response to such actions (it terms of voters’ popularity) is acting srongly against Iran, together with Israel.<<>>If he’s reelected, he’ll be very powerful and hostile to Israel, and he’ll be able to prevent any Israeli action (even by ordering shooting down Israeli planes).<<>>That’s the scenario Barak and Bibi are terrified of – and this is exactly why they have to act before the elecetions.<<<
And you think Obama is totally oblivious to these calculations circulating in the minds of the 'stupidest men in the universe?'
You bet on Bibi. I'll bet on Obama. There will be no Israeli attack before November or, if they are psychotic enough to try it he will stand them down one way or another.
Half the above message got lost in transmission and may as well be deleted.
The short of it is I consider all of Blum’s points as sloppy thinking, besides anal.
By all accounts by those who have or are currently working with the President he is not considered “weak.” He gets high marks for his handling of national security issues, foreign affairs and military matters, especially by none other than ex Sec Def Gates who should know better than anyone who has served under 7 presidents.
As for politics and the ballot box Israeli firsters, Jewish and Christian Zionists aren’t voting for Obama anyway, their voting for the other guy. On the economic front the price of oil will skyrocket to the stratosphere killing off an anemic global recovery and likely plunging the world into a global depression. A lot of people are going to like that one
As for Bibi and Barak living in terror of a 2nd term Obama, well, they should have considered that before they f****d this president.
Richard Silverstein says
I disagree with both yr premises: that Obama will be forced to capitulate to the Israel lobby if Israel attacks Iran; and that Obama will be hostile to Israel after he wins reelection. It ain’t gonna happen. Somewhere in the middle is much more likely: that he’ll quietly disapprove of an Israeli attack (but then the question becomes whether he’ll resupply Israel during such an attack); and that he’ll be equally pusillanimous regarding Israel in his 2nd term.
You forget that Ron Paul is beating the pants off Romney at the moment. We Americans are tired of these wars. Just today our veterans were throwing their medals back to NATO in Chicago. Conservatives and Liberals alike. NO MORE WARS.
Ira Glunts says
I have to agree with Joe (he’s no plumber) Blum here.
In addition to the reasons he has given, I would point out that Obama’s statement that Israel has the right to attack Iran if it concludes it is facing “an existential threat.” That little gem is going to be hard to back away from during an election.
I don’t think this opinion is a minority one.
I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one. The minority opinion among the American people, and I’m presuming you are alluding to them, would be among Israeli firsters and Zealots who already lust for war. A super majority are decidedly much opposed to another fools errand in the M/E.
And the opposition to war with Iran is no longer concentrated within the national security state, but increasingly getting currency throughout the US ‘establishment.’
If the Iranian response is only attacking Israel and not US assets or other allies, should the usual suspects clamor for war Obama will probably demand a declaration of war from Congress in the absence of an Iranian provocation. That ought to shut them up forthwith, since the second greatest cowards in the universe are US Congressmen.
Very much in agreement with your analysis Richard, with one slight caveat.
Its an article of faith throughout the US national security state that an Israeli preventative attack will fail. And should the US allow itself to be drawn into a regional war in the M/E, the consequences could range anywhere from at least disastrous to existential should the conflict go global.
Should the maniacal, Zionist fool in Jerusalem order an attack, he gives Obama no choice but to order him to stand down or blow his air, naval and missile assets to kingdom come.
American air and naval forces in the region can be deployed against Israel as they are against Iran. That’s Bibi’s bit time gamble if he so chooses to play. I’m betting he will lose.
Interesting that Medvedev warned of possible nuclear consequences to such an eventuality recently, which is not inconceivable, for all we know Iran has even got the limited capability, which there have been reports of (via under the counter purchases). Fatal blunders have been made often enough before in history – could this be Israel’s? Will Bibi bring about the very thing he thinks he would be preventing? He sure seems the kind of guy that could let his ideology take him and his country over a cliff if he’s not careful. Let’s hope he reflects hard and long on whether it’s really worth the risk. The fact that Iran would be ‘wiped off the map’ in response will be small consolation if there is already a blank space where Tel Aviv used to be (or vice versa for that matter!).