Obama cautions against “a premature attack” on Iran, rejects red lines
In a widely reported interview to The Atlantic Friday, March 2, US President Barack Obama held to the line which he claimed “the Israelis share” that “Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time…” debkafile: This assessment is certainly not shared by the Israelis.
In a New York Times article published Thursday, former Israel Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin wrote:
“Asking Israel's leaders to abide by America's timetable, and hence allowing Israel's window of opportunity to be closed, is to make Washington a de facto proxy for Israel's security – a tremendous leap of faith for Israelis faced with a looming Iranian bomb.”
The two views represent the crux of the fundamental disagreement between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu three days before they meet at the White House on how and when to stop Iran going nuclear.
When Obama stressed: “I don’t bluff …When the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say,” he was stating that his policy on Iran remain unchanged ahead of that meeting.
He went on to reiterate the effectiveness of diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions on Iran’s regime.
In recent days, senior US officers and Pentagon sources were enlisted to aim tough talk at Iranian ears and tell Israelis the administration was committed to their security and making available the military means for demolishing the Iranian nuclear threat. This was an exercise to soften up Israeli and Jewish opinion ahead of the president’s Atlantic interview and his negation of the Israeli government’s positions.
The interview told Israel and the 14,000 delegates attending the AIPAC convention opening in Washington Sunday, March 4, not to expect President Obama’s speech to augur any shift in America’s Iran policy.
When Obama said “I think the Israeli people understand it,” in reference to the refrain “all options are on the table,” he ignored the widening gap between his take on the state of Iran’s nuclear program and the conclusions reached by Israel’s political, military and intelligence leaders and experts.
The Israeli view was laid out clearly by Yadlin when he wrote, “That moment of decision will occur when Iran is on the verge of shielding its nuclear facilities from a successful attack – what Israel’s leaders have called the zone of immunity.”
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources note that not only Israel, but US intelligence and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, are convinced that Iran is already in the second stage and possibly the third of its operation to shielding its nuclear facilities in one or more zones of immunity.
This ominous development is ignored in the US president’s interview.
Israel knows that the US had the means to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities even when they are buried in “zones of immunity.” Israel lacks those means.
When he declared, “The Israeli people understand that the United States isn’t bluffing when it says ‘all options are on the table,’” Obama no doubt recalled the disagreement with Netanyahu going back six months when the Israeli prime minister asked him privately on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to lay down a US-Israeli consensus on red lines for Iran’s nuclear program, beyond which the US President would be committed to strike Iran.
In return, Israel would promise to refrain from attacking Iran and follow America’s lead on the issue.
The US president turned him down.
Israel has not relinquished its position, which Yadlin put very clearly: “What is needed is an ironclad American assurance that if Israel refrains from acting in its own window of opportunity – and all other options have failed to halt Tehran's nuclear quest – Washington will act to prevent a nuclear Iran while it is still within its power to do so.”
The absence of that American assurance is keeping Israel from a commitment to refrain from attacking Iran notwithstanding all the verbal ammunition thrown at its government from Washington.