US Air Force F-15E releases a GBU-28 "Bunker Buster" 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout)
Yossi Klein Halevi, in an article on The New Republic’s website earlier this
month entitled “Why Israel Still Can’t Trust That Obama Has Its Back,” argued
that Washington seemed more concerned about warning Israel than stopping
“Even when he seemed to be warning Tehran, he was really warning
Jerusalem,” Halevi said about US President Barack Obama’s speech at the
America-Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference.
these last days hasn’t been so much to deter them but us.”
A mere look at
the headlines in some key Iran-related stories in the media over the last few
weeks proves Halevi’s point.
These are stories whose conclusions are that
Israel cannot stop Iran’s nuclear program, or that such an attack would actually
get Iran to speed up its program, or that it would suck the US into a
Thursday’s piece in Foreign Policy
magazine by Mark Perry about
Israel’s ties with Azerbaijan
just proves this point. There was something
off-putting about the whole tone of the piece, as if the bad guy in this story
were not Iran, for trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but Israel, for
establishing close ties with Baku and securing the use of air bases near the
Iranian border to more effectively carry out an attack if needed.
watching what Iran does closely,’ one of the US sources, an intelligence officer
engaged in assessing the ramifications of a prospective Israeli attack
confirmed,’” according to the article. “But we’re now watching what Israel is
doing in Azerbaijan. And we’re not happy about it.’” And this is just the latest
in a series of high-profile stories – based, in most cases, on unnamed American
sources – warning about a possible strike.
Either Israel doesn’t have the
ability to carry it out (The New York Times
, February 19); or – according to the
conclusions of a classified war simulation – it will drag the US into a wider
conflict and cost hundreds of American lives (The New York Times
, March 19); or
an attack would only further accelerate Iran’s bid for the bomb (Reuters, March
According to the logic in the last piece, if Israel attacked, then
Iran – which essentially developed its program in contravention of the
Non-Proliferation Treaty it signed, and despite international inspectors – may
choose not to let those inspectors back in and, as a result, have an easier time
pursuing nuclear weapons.
Now, that is an interesting bit of logic: Don’t
attack, because if you do, Iran won’t let back in the inspectors who were so
impotent in the first place that Tehran is now on the cusp of nuclear
And this constant drumbeat of Israel-must-not-take-action
articles is not only in press reports. A report Wednesday by the Congressional
Research Service – the US Congress’s nonpartisan “think tank” – said Iran could
recover from a strike and rebuild its centrifuge workshops within six months,
meaning that such a strike would be futile. It is “unclear what the ultimate
effect of a strike would be on the likelihood of Iran acquiring nuclear
weapons,” the report read.
These reports and stories are not being made
up out of whole cloth. Rather, they are fed by sources intent on sending a clear
message: Do not attack.
That a spate of these reports is coming out just
a couple of weeks after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Obama in the White
House shows that despite the smiles and the talk then about understanding and
hyper-close coordination, the US and Israel are not seeing eye-to-eye on the
Iranian “military option” issue.
The US wants Israel to wait, and what
this constant drip of stories indicates is a sense in Washington that its
efforts to convince Israel to do so are failing.
As a result, some in
Washington are using a more public route to get that message across and to try
and tie Jerusalem’s hands.