At the height of the U.S.-Israel honeymoon, officials in Washington embarked on a puzzling and stinging diplomatic maneuver against Israel over the latter’s purported plans to attack Iran’s nuclear program. These were not verbal single shots, but rather a sustained attack using machine-gun bursts and cluster bombs.
First, there were claims that an Israeli attack on Iran would delay production of a nuclear bomb by only half a year, and would result in the deaths of 200 Americans. Not that the number is insignificant, but how many Americans have died in hopeless U.S. military initiatives that were doomed to failure from the get-go in the past few years?
Someone in the U.S. disclosed that Israel has air force bases in Azerbaijan, a claim which Israel has denied and which, whether it’s true or not, is considered secret information. On Thursday, Amir Oren of Haaretz, apparently basing his information on reliable American sources, added that Israel had agreed to postpone an attack on Iran until 2013. Assuming that this is true, where did that come from?
Staunch rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, among them those who oppose outright the idea of an attack on Iran, claim they achieved a significant political victory in bringing the issue to the forefront of the international community’s agenda. The boycott of Iran is the work of Israel, and if sanctions are imposed on Iran’s central bank as well, the effect will be swift and devastating. So what reasonable interest does someone in the Pentagon have in hardening the Iranian pharaoh’s heart on the eve of Passover, and indicating to him that he has nothing to fear? This borders on insanity.
Iran says it is willing to negotiate a halt to the military component of its nuclear program, as long as it feels Israel is serious. The German defense minister’s statement that after his meeting with Barak this week he is more worried than before about an Israeli attack on Iran actually strengthens the chance for peace. Without fear, there is no way to bring Iran to the negotiating table.
There is a vast distinction between a U.S. trying to dissuade Israel diplomatically from taking military action and being rebuffed by Jerusalem, and public, unilateral U.S. pressure to deter Netanyahu and Barak from wielding a credible military threat against the ayatollahs. What is true of dangerous statements made by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan during his press conferences is also true for U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and even U.S. President Barack Obama himself.
No one wants to see military action taken against Iran, unless all other options have failed. A strike on Iran may yet take place, with successful results, even if 200 Americans or 500 Israelis are killed in the operation, but such a strike may also result in endless trouble as well.
Perhaps there will be no strike on Iran, with its necessity ideally disproved, or with Israel missing the train and the Iranian centrifuges and nuclear facilities near Qom passing the point of no return. This would be the worse-case scenario. One way or another, the U.S. is closing in on Israel and narrowing its windows of opportunity by divulging the secret military information at its disposal.
The Romans taught us that “he who wants peace, should prepare for war.” In the modern age, the phrase should be: “He who wants peace, should prepare for war and use it as a threat.” Unfortunately, they seem not to have studied Latin in Washington.