In a meeting on Tuesday, Dan Shapiro, the United States ambassador to Israel, told a closed meeting of the Israel Bar Association that the U.S. not only reserves the option to attack Iran in the event that diplomacy fails to curtail Iran’s nuclear program but that it is ready to launch such an attack.
In today’s State Department press briefing, Matt Lee from the Associated Press had the following exchange with spokesperson Victoria Nuland. Referring to a meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Lee asked:
QUESTION: Are they going to be talking about what Ambassador Shapiro was talking about earlier this week about how the U.S. is ready to attack Iran?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just make clear that Ambassador Shapiro’s comments were designed to reflect completely what the President has said all along, which is that even as we move forward with the P-5+1 discussions with Iran and hope that we can settle these issues through diplomacy, that we nonetheless take no option off the table.
QUESTION: Well, he went a bit further than that. He said that it’s more than just being on the table; we’re ready now. Like all it’d be —
MS. NULAND: Well, as Secretary Panetta has —
QUESTION: — a snap of the fingers and all of a sudden we’ve got missiles headed towards wherever.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think Secretary Panetta has also spoken to the fact that it is the responsibility of his building to have appropriate contingency planning. So I don’t think that should be any surprise either.
QUESTION: Okay. So in other words, this is – it should not be a surprise that he could have said this about – the ambassador could have said this about any country?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Because you have contingency plans to attack any country?
MS. NULAND: Except Buffalo, New York.
QUESTION: Well, that’s not a country.
MS. NULAND: Matt, are you comforted?
So the Pentagon has a plan to attack Israel? And Canada? And Switzerland? No wonder it’s so difficult to trim the defense budget.
I know — it’s the Pentagon’s job to plan for all possible contingencies, but Lee’s question wasn’t about the existence of the plan, it was about what Shapiro meant when he said the U.S. is “ready” to attack Iran. A plan can sit in a file — readiness involves physical actions like deployment of additional aircraft carriers to the Gulf. Is that what Shapiro was talking about? Or was he just trying to sound tough in front of his Israeli friends?