Analysis: Israel steps out of limelight on Iran

If Israel continues to beat the war drums, the world will be able to easily dismiss Iran as a problem for Jerusalem to deal with.

Iranian nuclear program 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian nuclear program 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After a week of beating the war drums and blaring newspaper headlines, Israel stepped out of the spotlight on the Iranian issue.
Defense officials openly admitted Monday that with an incriminating and decisive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report scheduled to come out later this week on Iran’s development of the bomb, it made sense for Israel to slightly distance itself from the issue.
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The rationale is quite simple: If Israel continues to beat the war drums, the world will be able to easily dismiss Iran as a problem for Jerusalem to deal with. By distancing itself, Israel is effectively telling the United States and Europe that it is their time to step up and lead the world in stopping Iran’s nuclear race.
“It is one thing for the world to hear us warn about Iran,” one senior defense official said. “It is another thing to hear it from the IAEA, which is supposed to be an objective UN agency.”
That is assuming the report is harsh enough and succeeds in stirring up enough controversy. Israel tried to lay the groundwork with its saber-rattling last week, which included a mysterious ballistic missile test, air force and civil defense exercises and claims that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was trying to recruit a majority in the cabinet to approve a strike against Iran.
Israel’s main goal at the moment is in getting the world to enforce tougher economic sanctions on Iran. In the coming weeks, David S. Cohen, the US Treasury Department’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, will arrive in Israel for talks on the heels of a recent visit to Europe, where he tried to garner support for a crackdown on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI).
Cohen is leading the financial campaign against Iran and works closely with Israel and particularly the IDF’s Military Intelligence and the Mossad. His predecessor, Stuart Levey, was a frequent visitor to Israel, where he often met with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
In addition to sanctions against the CBI, Israel would also like to see tougher measures against Iran’s energy sector, the main source of income for the Islamic regime.
At the same time though, Israel – like a lot of the world – is skeptical that sanctions can work. What they can do though is succeed in stalling the Iranian regime’s nuclear progress, similar to the way the covert action taken against Iran has delayed the program.
Sanctions imposed on the CBI would, for example, make it difficult for Iran to bankroll the program and buy components it needs to build new advanced centrifuges.
Sanctions against the energy sector could cut off the source of income.
This type of outcome is very similar to the potential results of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Also in this case, Israel’s capabilities are limited and the results would likely lead to a delay of about a year or two in Iran’s program.
The threat from Iran has not changed in recent years and has always been the same for Israel, which consistently argued that the Iranians were working on a weapon.
What has changed is that the Iranians are at the threshold and have mastered the technology not just of how to enrich uranium, but also apparently how to build a bomb.
That is why the coming months will be critical. Israel’s obvious preference is for tougher sanctions to be imposed on Iran and to succeed in delaying the program even more, giving time and hope for a different outcome.
What type of outcome? Maybe a “Persian Spring.”
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