Barak will have to pass an attack on Iran through a reluctant U.S. (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Amir Oren 02/26/12)
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Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce the Israelis who will fly off
and bomb Iran, on an errand assigned to them by Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense
Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
Should this mission get a green light, the bomb squad could consist
of a lawyer, the director of a business and a pilot from a commercial
airline - these are some of the day jobs of our combat pilots and
navigators. They are people we meet every day on the street, in
stores, at a university; they are persons of high civilian status,
and lower status; their helmets hide curls or hair or bald heads;
they are reservist officers aged 25 to 52, more or less.
Flying combat squads have permanent members (a commander, two
deputies and additional pilots ), but they are supplemented by
navigators and others who hold positions in the air force on training
bases (or are on study leave ), and also by some reservists. All keep
in shape and train so they are in a position to do their duty, be it
in Iran or elsewhere. Should they be called on for the Iran
operation, they will mobilize without hesitation, whether or not they
believe the order came down from political echelons after careful
consideration of all operations and not just as a political gimmick.
Though members of such a bomb squad would be privy to secret details
of the region to which they would have to fly, they would not have
access to "macro" details superior to that of any other citizen in
the country. Like everyone else in this country, these bomb squad
members would want answers about the rationale for the raid. And like
everyone else, they hear senior cabinet ministers issue public
warnings to Iran. But unlike other citizens, they know that these
warnings could turn into military orders that endanger their lives.
Meantime, whenever the idea of an Iran raid comes up, officials in
Washington keep telling Netanyahu and Barak "No." In the past,
this "no" was mentioned in faint, diplomatic tones; recently it has
become blunt and loud. National security adviser Tom Donilon and
national intelligence director James Clapper, who both recently
visited Israel, have started to speak quite explicitly about Iran.
Clapper sounded like former Mossad head Meir Dagan and head of the
IDF intelligence branch Aviv Kochavi, when he estimated recently that
Iran´s leadership, starting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has yet to
reach a decision about the country´s nuclear program. Should a
decision be reached, Clapper noted, its implantation would not be
completed for at least a year.
Interviewed a month ago by U.S. talk show host Charlie Rose, Donilon
chose not to comment specifically about Ehud Barak´s orientation ("We
are close to Barak and to the Israeli government," he said ), and
made clear that Obama wants to give diplomatic routes and sanctions a
chance to work.
International pressure on Iran is reaching a new stage. Pressure will
now focus on oil and money; in the background, there remains the
possibility of utilizing "all assets" - meaning a military option.
Advisers like Donilon are indicating that Washington´s preference is
to let Tehran consider possible policy scenarios that might be
deployed by the United States, and to allow the Iranians to choose a
At the end of January, Donilon added that the United States is
determined not to allow Iran to undermine stability in the Persian
Gulf and in the Arab world. America will not allow Iran to act
aggressively and ruthlessly exploit the Arab Spring, "which is
proposing ideological alternatives to Iran´s Islamic Revolution,"
There are alternatives to Iranian oil: Saudi Arabia and Iraq have
increased their oil production. Should the Iranian government respond
to an invitation issued by the European Union´s foreign affairs chief
Catherine Ashton, and set a date for negotiation, he Americans
will "meet with them" as well for a dialogue which will raise the
nuclear issue, according to Obama´s advisers and spokesmen.
Khamenei will decide
Before he decides that there is no option other than waging a strike
against Iran, Obama will test every possible discussion option, and
appeal directly to Khamenei - in an overture that will capture
attention around the world. Obama is many months away from reaching
this stage - he will not want to embroil the Americans in a war
before the November elections.
Were he to agree to an Israeli attack, Obama would lose control of
events in the Persian Gulf. Khamenei would be the one to decide
whether to regard an IDF operation against his country´s reactors as
a joint Israeli-American venture, coordinated (in the ayatollah´s
view ) by a series of visits undertaken by Israeli ministers and army
officers in America, and vice versa; Khamenei would decide whether or
not to launch attacks on American targets. Should Iran choose to
expand the war and view Israel as a "little Satan," rather than the
embodiment of evil, the result would be that Jerusalem would drag
America into a regional war. Each American casualty, and all U.S.
dollars invested in the war, would be wrapped around Israel´s neck.
Many this week cited an Israeli attack scenario published by The New
York Times on February 19. This report, however, did not contain any
original information. Its facts could be gleaned in an extremely
penetrating and expansive report produced by Anthony Cordesman of the
Center for Strategic and International Studies, which circulated
three years ago. The main significance of the Times publication was
the timing of the public signals dispatched by Israel´s anonymous
spokesmen to Obama: the prize can be won, but it won´t be easy. Not
that it will be hard for Israel - the difficulties will be borne by
As it turned out, the important item published by The New York Times
preceded the description of a military raid. This item stated that
the Republicans, who are struggling to find a candidate with a
fighting chance against Obama, have, at long last, found a stick with
which to poke the President: rising gas prices.
On the streets of Tel Aviv or Haifa, consumers will wonder what the
fuss is about: fuel prices in California or New York are about half
of those in Israel. Yet in recent months, gas prices have risen about
30 cents a gallon; all told, the prices have roughly doubled since
Obama was sworn into the White House in January 2009.
Republicans who support an American or Israeli operation against
Iran, which would probably result in inflated gas prices, are the
same politicians who currently berate the President for rises in fuel
costs. Obama needs to protect himself against such attacks and try to
stave off future hikes in gas prices, lest he lose voters to his
rival in the upcoming Presidential race.
A new lobbying effort organized to close ranks with Israel´s
position, "United Against a Nuclear Iran," is being careful not to
specifically advocate the attack option. The organization cites
intelligence assessments holding that Iran will not have a nuclear
military arsenal before 2015. The organization states that "it has no
official relations with a foreign state."
Question of time
Edward Luttwak, a veteran observer of the Pentagon and the White
House, wrote this week in the Wall Street Journal that under the
previous U.S. administration, the Americans really only had one
military option regarding Iran - an "air war" rather than "air
strike." The U.S. army refused to narrow an operation to strikes on
specific nuclear targets; it insisted upon expanding the air campaign
to include strikes against a number of other targets. That is a good
way to kill a military plan: Agree to a military option, but only on
condition that it turns into a full-scale war, something that a
President cannot endorse.
In his fourth year in office, Obama is surrounded by military
advisers who show a distinct lack of enthusiasm for any proposal to
attack anything other than weak targets. As Gen. Martin E. Dempsey,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it, this is not the time
to battle against the strong - his reference was applied to Syria´s
President Bashar Assad and his army.
Members of the U.S. army´s ground forces, who would become embroiled
in a land war should air strikes not meet the objectives of an
operation against the "strong" in Iran or elsewhere, are currently
preoccupied by salary and family health insurance matters - after
returning to the United States from prolonged stints in Iraq and
Afghanistan, they are not thrilled about the idea of another long
absence from home. Polling conducted among U.S. servicemen indicates
that the two Presidential contenders they most favor are Obama, who
fulfilled his promise to pull the troops out of Iraq, and the
isolationist Republican, Ron Paul.
In one week, the prospect of an IDF operation in Iran was denounced
by Japan´s prime minister, Britain´s foreign minister and Germany´s
defense minister. World powers are putting up a united front on the
Iran issue. They are not pro Iran, but they are against Israel.
Iran´s leadership can sense that Israel´s bellicosity is premature.
The IDF´s leadership points to the fragility of the region´s
political situation, and how it could be further undermined by the
fallout of an Israel-Iran confrontation. The collapse of the regime
in Jordan, or masses of demonstrators marching toward the borders on
the Gaza Strip or in Lebanon - these are a few examples of potential
IDF chief Benny Gantz, and top officials in the defense ministry,
need to take such possibilities into account. It´s hard to imagine
that a broad look at regional scenarios and possible repercussions of
attack moves would yield a recommendation for an attack on Iran. When
Obama thinks about the war-promoters in Israel´s current political
constellation, he has in mind Netanyahu, who will persist about the
problem posed by Iran´s nuclear program but is flexible about the
timing of any military response to it, and Ehud Barak.
Should members of Israel´s bomb squad presently be wondering whether
they will be called upon to attack Iran´s nuclear reactors, the
answer to their ruminations is to be found in President Obama´s
unwillingness to serve as a subcontractor to Barak and Netanyahu. The
point in contention right now between Jerusalem and Washington has to
do with timing.
Netanyahu will arrive at the White House on March 5, and in all
likelihood Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top officials
from the two countries will fly back and forth in the upcoming weeks
to discuss issues of timing and deferral. At any rate, the U.S.
elections will allow the moderates to postpone any action until after
November. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 02/26/12)
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