Did Obama Promise to Leap to the Defense of Israel’s Nuclear Program?
On Thursday morning Oct. 10, Israel Radio reported the arrival of British and French officials “for discussions with their Israeli counterparts on the Iranian nuclear issue.”
Citing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office as its source, the report disclosed that the visitors met with Minister for Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz and staff as well as senior staff of the Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council.
The radio correspondent was informed that the European position on the subject was “stable” and they were proof against being won over by Iranian proposals that were “not serious.” The Europeans appeared ready to meet the Iranians half way, said the PMO source, yet they did not take exception to Israel’s demands for Iranian nuclear disarmament and promised to “seriously take them into account” at the nuclear talks opening in Geneva next week.
This picture was wholly contrived by Netanyahu’s office, DEBKA Weekly’s sources report.
Netanyahu knows as well as those visitors that Israel has no choice but to swallow the partial US-Russian-Iranian blueprint (outlined in the first article in this issue) unless he is ready to go for a military strike against Iran without further delay.
This is unlikely to happen, although on Oct. 1 Netanyahu thundered at the UN: “I want there to be no confusion on this point. Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.” The fact of the matter is that Israel can’t really stand up to the concerted front backing the mighty push by Washington, Moscow and Tehran for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear controversy.
Netanyahu abandons hope of US forcing Iran’s nuclear disarmament
That the Europeans promised to “seriously” address Israel’s demands implied that Washington had turned them down.
And indeed, upon learning of the accommodations Barack Obama was close to finalizing with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Netanyahu put in a hurried call to the White House. In a conversation with Obama’s aides, the prime minister warned against “a bad deal” and proposed certain riders for slowing down the president’s precipitate embrace.
One was to ban Iran’s use of the advanced IR-2 centrifuges which spin at three or four times the speed of the machines in current use. Netanyahu tried explaining that the use of just a few of these wonder centrifuges would render US-Iranian agreements meaningless. But no one at the other end of the White House line was ready to listen.
By the time he met President at the White House on Sept. 30, the prime minister had given up hope of persuading Washington to try and force Iran to give up its nuclear program. He knew it would be a waste of time. Instead, he asked the president to guarantee his espousal of Israel’s nuclear weapons and promise to keep them off the international agenda.
Obama gave Netanyahu this guarantee in 2009.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources were not informed of the president’s response on this point. But we have plenty of information about Obama’s counter-arguments. He insisted that the Washington-Tehran rapprochement would be a net gain for Israel too, because it had the potential to evolve one day into ties between Jerusalem and Tehran and, who knows, even an eventual peace accord between the Islamic Republic and the Jewish State.
(More on this in a separate article in this issue.)
Israel need no longer fear Tehran
Obama’s argument was corroborated from another quarter.
Leaders of a state bordering on Russia with close ties to President Vladimir Putin reported that they were reliably informed by high-ranking Russian officials during their latest trips to Moscow that Tehran may be groping its way toward acknowledging Israel – if not recognition.
Those Russian officials said a discreet new directive had been handed down from on high to the Iranian media to qualify their total rejection of Israel’s right to exist, while continuing to excoriate its government’s polices and Netanyahu in person.
In the view of those Moscow sources, Tehran has adopted separate policies for Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Netanyahu government received a good mark for not pouncing on the US-Russian deals for Syria. The Saudis in contrast are flat against the deal on Syria and its effective perpetuation of the rule of Bashar Assad, and so Tehran expects Riyadh, by the same token, to try and disrupt any accord with Washington on its nuclear program.
(More on the Saudi campaign against those deals in a separate article in this issue.)
Putin: Israel doesn’t need nuclear arms
Some Israeli analysts interpret those leaks as a combined effort by Washington and Moscow to disarm Netanyahu by presenting Israel’s prospects in rosy colors and persuading him to temper his campaign against US-Russian plans for Tehran and its nuclear program.
Other informed Israeli sources suspect the US and Russia of conniving to break up the united front Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates have formed ad hoc for defeating those plans. The two powers are counting on driving a wedge between the Saudis, by cajoling them into accepting the Iranian deal and leaving Israel out in the cold in isolation.
Either way, Israel suspects President Obama is not keeping Netanyahu abreast of his moves in relation to Iran and Russia, as he promised, and red lights are flashing in Jerusalem on another score. In a speech delivered at the 10th anniversary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club on Sept. 19, President Putin defended Syria’s acquisition of chemical weapons as a justifiable response to Israel’s nuclear weapons.
He argued that Israel is so technologically advanced that it does not need nuclear weapons and their possession only makes the country a target.
Putin and Obama moves for divesting the Mid East of WMD
That argument was interpreted as a bid to use the US-Russian understanding on Syria’s chemical arsenal as a lever for jumpstarting a comprehensive disarmament process in the region that would divest Israel of its nuclear armaments.
The Russian president has long spoken in favor of making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone, an ambition known to be shared by Obama.
Israeli policymakers no doubt took note of five points:
1. Putin’s comments at Valdai were made to an audience that included a number of American officials and they were seen taking down every word;
2. Only a minimum of invitations were sent to Israel this year – none to key Israeli figures in US-Israel relations.
3. It was hard to tell whether Putin’s remarks were the fruit of a tactic shared with Obama, or an attempt to pull the US president still further into the Russian net by stepping out of their agreed boundaries.
4. Or perhaps Obama and Putin are playing good cop-bad cop on the Iranian question as they did over Syria’s chemical weapons. Putin would then take the lead role in issues whose handling would embarrass Obama leaving the US president to play along as though he had no choice.
5. Was the Putin speech the manifestation of a secret US-Russian arrangement – known to Iran, but not Saudi Arabia or Israel – to convene an international conference under the aegis of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to discuss measures for removing weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East?