Ynet reports: The United States has indirectly informed Iran, via two European nations, that it would not back an Israeli strike against the country’s nuclear facilities, as long as Tehran refrains from attacking American interests in the Persian Gulf, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.
According to the report, Washington used covert back-channels in Europe to clarify that the US does not intend to back Israel in a strike that may spark a regional conflict.
In return, Washington reportedly expects Iran to steer clear of strategic American assets in the Persian Gulf, such as military bases and aircraft carriers.
We already know that Benjamin Netanyahu is hell-bent on trying to extract a hard promise from President Obama that precisely spells out the circumstances in which the United States will launch a military strike on Iran and we know that the U.S. is in overdrive trying to ensure that Israel does not unilaterally launch an attack on Iran. In this context, is it plausible that the U.S. would spell out to Iran those conditions in which the U.S. would leave Israel to suffer the consequences of Iranian retaliation?
This report sounds more like an Israeli fabrication designed to prompt an unequivocal denial from Washington and thus an implicit confirmation that however recklessly Israel acts, the United States remains committed to protect its least dependable ally.
Sure enough, Reuters now reports:
The White House on Monday denied an Israeli newspaper report that accused Washington of secretly negotiating with Tehran to keep the United States out of a future Israel-Iran war.
“It’s incorrect, completely incorrect,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told Reuters while accompanying President Barack Obama on a campaign trip in Ohio. “The report is false and we don’t talk about hypotheticals.”
Unlike the White House, I have no reluctance to speculate and my guess is that there is a grain of truth in the Yedioth report, which is to say that the Pentagon’s primary concern is first and foremost the protection of U.S. regional interests. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has already gone on record indicating, in effect, that if Israel unilaterally attacks Iran, then they’re on their own. “I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it.”
The Israelis (or perhaps some of their friends in Washington), rather than accept that they have been duly cautioned, have twisted this warning into an imaginary back-channel deal between Iran and the U.S. in an attempt to delegitimize Dempsey’s warning. At least that’s one way of interpreting what’s behind this story.