After a week in which speculation about the chances of an imminent Israel attack on Iran have dominated the headlines in Israel, the Washington Post reports:
Israeli capabilities are at the heart of the debate over a military strike. Israeli leaders are concerned that Iran will use more time to move its critical nuclear facilities out of reach of Israel’s arsenal. That would leave only the United States with the unquestioned ability to destroy deeply buried Iranian facilities.
U.S. officials say Israeli leaders are sincere about the need to act quickly, but they said they do not think Netanyahu has made the decision to strike. Rather, the Israeli leader is trying to pressure the United States.
“They are deadly serious, as is the president, about the need to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” a senior U.S. official said. “But there has been far too much talking — background leaks and fabrications — that hurt the cause.”
The anonymous official quoted here is most likely U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and when he speaks of ‘fabrications’ he is most likely referring to a fake document that was thrust into the public debate this week by an American blogger who seems to crave media attention at any cost. Indeed, the spectacle of massive destruction across Iran presented in this bogus war plan may well have contributed to further escalation in bellicose rhetoric from Iran.
The Associated Press reports:
A senior Iranian commander says a possible Israeli airstrike against his country’s nuclear facilities is “welcome” because it would give Iran a reason to retaliate and “get rid of” the Jewish state “forever.”
The remarks by Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard’s air force, were reported Saturday by the official IRNA news agency.
Hajizadeh says in the event of an Israeli strike, Iran’s response would be “swift, decisive and destructive.” But he also claims Israeli threats of a strike are just part of a psychological war against Iran.
The effect of this psychological war is not only that both sides will further limit their options, eventually to a point at which war becomes unavoidable, but Israel’s threats function as blackmail on the U.S..
Israel is relying on one of its most loyal supporters to deliver their blackmail demands to Washington. Dennis Ross writes:
[S]enior American officials should ask Israeli leaders if there are military capabilities we could provide them with — like additional bunker-busting bombs, tankers for refueling aircraft and targeting information — that would extend the clock for them.
…[T]he White House should ask Mr. Netanyahu what sort of support he would need from the United States if he chose to use force — for example, resupply of weapons, munitions, spare parts, military and diplomatic backing, and help in terms of dealing with unexpected contingencies. The United States should be prepared to make firm commitments in all these areas now in return for Israel’s agreement to postpone any attack until next year…
In this context, an Israeli plan to attack Iran (even one that turns out to have been fabricated) can be understood as part of an ongoing campaign through which Israel continues to blackmail the U.S. government.
Update: It’s been pointed out to me that a much more likely explanation for the mention of ‘fabrications’ is that this referred to the suggestion that there is a new US National Intelligence Estimate supporting Israel’s claims about the level to which Iran’s nuclear program has advanced, alongside a number of other baseless claims that have emanated from Israeli officials. In other words, this official was not alluding to fake war plans that have been floating around in the blogosphere. I stand corrected.