I’ve written regularly here about Israel’s manipulation of U.S. media and public opinion in favor of military intervention against Iran. This perception management campaign has gone on for years. But recent days have proven that two can play at this. The U.S. too has a horse in this race. It doesn’t want Israel to strike. So it too is using various methods to massage Israeli perception of such an attack.
As I wrote yesterday, some of the most senior Obama administration officials have come to Israel over the past two weeks including Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, and Tom Donilon. They offered a mix of encouragement and tongue-lashing, all to remind Israel’s leaders that they should be grateful for the protective layer we’ve offered Israel from Iran’s nuclear threat.
Various Israeli officials have come forward too, espousing the message that an Israeli assault on Iran would be foolish. Those include no less a figure than IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who was quoted in an Israeli news report that was censored at the demand of Ehud Barak.
The latest to join the chorus is former IDF intelligence chief Aharon Farkash, who offered his views to no less a hawkish forum than the Jerusalem Post and its military reporter Yaakov Katz, who’s known as a stenographer for the brass. You can tell that if the Post and Katz are offering a venue to those against an attack, that this is not an issue about which Israel is at all unified.
Here is how Katz characterizes his subject’s views:
Farkash [said] that from what he is reading and hearing a decision is not far off. But, he warns, a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities now would be wrong.
“The timing is not now since, even if it is successful, it will ruin the legitimacy that is needed,” he said, suggesting instead that Israel wait six to eight months or even until spring 2013 before deciding on such an attack.
One word that repeats itself throughout the interview with Farkash is “legitimacy,” a reference to the required diplomatic support Israel will need after a strike to ensure that the Iranians are not allowed to rebuild their facilities and race toward the bomb – something he believes they will definitely and immediately do.
“An attack is not a single strike and once it happens we are in a whole other world,” he said. “Iran will pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad will reunite and it will be clear that they need a bomb now so that we cannot attack them again.
“Let the [diplomatic and sanctions] process run its course and don’t break the legitimacy,” he said…Right now, he adds, European and Asian countries are paying a heavy price for agreeing to the sanctions and stopping to do business with Iran.
“If Israel attacks, we will find ourselves being asked why we attacked when the world was imposing tough economic sanctions and was paying for this and was hurting as a result,” he said.
…Farkash does not accept the “immunity zone” argument [of Ehud Barak] – he is not alone; the Pentagon has also dismissed it – but ultimately says that when the immunity zone is up against the question of legitimacy, legitimacy should take precedence…Israel without legitimacy will not be able to – over time – maintain the results of a successful attack.”
I am not saying that statements by Gantz or Farkash are instigated by the U.S. (though they might be). They each have institutional reasons of their own for speaking out. But the U.S. will have done whatever it could within the constraints permitted by diplomatic protocol to make its friends within the Israeli power élite know that it would welcome such public statements.
We also appear to be leaking like crazy to trusted sources within the Israeli media. After Donilon’s visit, someone leaked to Haaretz’s Barak Ravid that the former had shared with Bibi and Barak the U.S. war-plan against Iran. Similarly, both Shimon Shiffer, Yediot’s political correspondent, and Ben Caspit, Maariv columnist, have published what are presumably portions of the plan.
After reading them in Hebrew, all I can say is that they’re the biggest pile of elephant dung I’ve read in some time. If an American official actually conveyed this information to the reporters and believes half the nonsense in it, then Don Rumsfeld’s ghost from the days of the Iraq invasion must still be haunting the halls of the Pentagon.
Here’s a rough summary (via Caspit in Hebrew) of the U.S. plan. Despite the fact that many of you may find some of the views expressed here ironic or downright bizarre, I assure you I’ve done as little editorializing as possible except for the occasional [!] accompanying especially outrageous passages:
The attack begins with scores, perhaps hundreds of Tomahawk missiles attacking Iran’s defensive concentrations, command and control facilities, and intelligence capabilities. We will attack from everywhere in the globe from which we can field such weapons including bases in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and ships in the Mediterranean. The weapons will be precise and highly lethal. Casualties among bystanders would be “minimal [!]”
We attack Iran over the course of anywhere from a few days to two months, of course using extreme caution not to harm Iranian civilians. We then wait to see the Iranian response. If it’s “reasonable,” follows the “rules of the game,” and only involves attacking U.S. warplanes or ships which are attacking it, and doesn’t escalate into attacks on Saudi Arabia or far-flung terror attacks using Iran’s proxies, then the U.S. can ratchet down the military pressure. But if the Iranians decide to up the ante, then we come in with all guns blazing. We attack IRG installations, the symbols of the regime, and strike mortal blows against the country’s military forces. In short, we’ll threaten to burn down the house and take the entire regime with it. We even send the fleet to the shores of Lebanon–warplanes, aircraft carriers and all–to make Nasrallah think twice about supporting his Iranian patrons.
After the first U.S. attack comes the ultimatum. Pres. Obama will speak from the White House and offer the Iranian leadership a choice of immediately stopping its nuclear program, the evacuation of enriched uranium from the country, and closing of uranium enrichment sites (especially Fordo). In return, the west will offer Iran civilian nuclear reactors. The Iranians will take a few days to respond to this offer (which they’ll find impossible to refuse). There will no new negotiations. No give and take. No further delays. It will be take-it-or-leave-it. If they refuse, the Tomahawks will rain down on them and all hell will break loose. Shock and Awe II.
Strategic weapons will be next: the recently upgraded 30,000 pound GBU 57 bunker buster (including 5,000 pounds of explosive) that can, presumably, penetrate 300 feet down to take out the Fordo enrichment plant. This weapon involved $300-million in research and development and is produced by Boeing. It’s also known by its acronym: MOB (“Mother of all bombs”). You don’t want to be around when this baby hits the ground. Not much will remain of these nuclear sites afterward.
Unlike Iraq, the U.S. doesn’t plan any significant ground campaign in Iran. It will learn the lesson of Iraq. There will not be hundreds and thousands of coffins returning home from the field. There will be no Iranian quagmire.
The American goal will be to confine the attack to Iran’s nuclear facilities and not turn this into a regional war [!] The ayatollahs can be expected to be pragmatic, according to this American “wisdom,” to batten down the hatches, lower their heads, and take the blows we rain down. We don’t expect them to go wild and don’t believe they’d be willing absorb the murderous blows that would follow a full-scale Iranian counter-attack.
Such an American attack won’t wipe out Iran’s nuclear program, but it will set it back five to ten years [!]
Shimon Shiffer’s Yediot article likely comes from either the same or similar source. In fact, he offers a hint to decipher this “secret.” He notes that Israeli code for the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv is “HaYarkon Street.” He further notes he spoke with a senior official in the U.S. political-security echelon. Putting these two hints together, it appears the leaker is none other than Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who has previously made hawkish statements about the possibility of war with Iran.
Shapiro told Yediot that the Americans aren’t prepared to launch this attack for another year and a half. The paper’s Washington correspondent says that U.S. sources told him they’re quite aware of the opposition voiced by IDF chief Gantz to an Iran attack. He adds a few new details not offered in Caspit’s “exclusive.” Included as targets in the first wave of attacks will be Iranian infrastructure including power generation and water supply. The oil industry will also be a primary target. The destruction of Iran’s infrastructure will somehow lead to the fall of the regime.
One thing you’ve got to hand it to ’em: whoever sold this bill of goods really put on a good show. But that’s all it was: a show. Like a used car salesman offering the few attractive qualities of his product and leaving out the flood of flaws. Frankly, I think the American pitch was a load of bull. If left to the Americans, there will be no attack on Iran. No doubt Bibi and Barak knew that when they heard it from Donilon and Panetta, who left Israel yesterday.
If any American general really believed the load of crap that was peddled in these stories, he should not only have his head examined, he should be busted down to private. Aircraft carriers in Beirut harbor? Regime change? Shock and Awe II? An offer the Iranians can’t refuse? Whoever wrote this script has seen The Godfather too many times and confuses cinema for reality. How about some “ocean-front” property in the Everglades or a bridge in New York? Any takers?
But I find myself in the unlikely position of saying, if that’s what it takes to persuade Israel not to take leave of its senses and launch a new regional war against Iran, then more power to ’em. Whatever it takes, even if it’s based on fantasy and delusion. My problem is that I don’t believe any Israel will be fooled by this. You’re not and I’m not. Why would they?
To those who believe the Israelis won’t attack either, all I can say is that Aharon Farkash isn’t a Hollywood celebrity and doesn’t need media exposure. He doesn’t shoot his mouth off. If he speaks, like the old John Houseman commercial, everybody listens. If he thought Bibi was bluffing he wouldn’t waste his time. He believes an attack is likely, as do I. If I were a betting man (I’m not), I’d put the odds at 70-30.