f-16 figher jet AJ 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Several months ago, a top Israeli defense official visiting Washington was speaking with a senior American politician when the conversation turned to Iran.
“Whatever military platforms you ask for, we will give you,” the politician told the official. “Everything, of course, except permission to attack Iran.”
While this conversation is just one of many that take place daily between officials in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and their American counterparts in Washington and stationed throughout the Persian Gulf, it accurately reflects the current daylight between Israel and the US when it comes to Iran. Israel is of the opinion that time is running out to stop Iran. America appears to be leaning toward containment.
While mostly overlooked by the media, the US National Intelligence report that came out Wednesday on 2009 nuclear developments broke away from the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007, this time concluding that Iran was continuing to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons and was “keeping the door open to the possibility of building a nuclear weapon.”
While significant, the new assessment does not change anything for the United States, which is still determined to impose a new round of tough sanctions on Iran and is working hard to garner Russian and Chinese support. If and when this happens, Israel will likely wait to see what effect the new sanctions have and whether they succeed in stopping Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium.
At the same time, Israel retains the military option with a growing assessment in the government that the IDF has the ability to strike at key facilities and set back the Iranian program by a number of years, even without American logistical support.
The understanding, though, is that even if Israel does not receive American support, it will still need Washington to lead the diplomatic track that will be needed to follow up the military strike.
The current political crisis between US President Barack Obama and
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the Palestinian issue will
likely decrease the chance that the administration, which would not
support a strike, would assume the role of leading the diplomatic
At the same time, though, defense ties between the countries continue.
Last week, a Defense Ministry delegation met in New York with officials
from the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin about the F-35 Joint Strike
Fighter, which Israel is still in negotiations to buy. Also last week,
Israel signed a deal with the Pentagon to purchase three long-range
C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and is receiving technical
specifications on new weaponry all the time as well.
This does not mean that the US supports an Israeli military option.
What is more likely is that the administration wants to give Israel the
feeling that it has not been neglected and that America stands with it.