The words and deeds coming out of Washington in the last three days bring little comfort to the Israeli government as it prepares for Barack Obama’s first visit as president Wednesday, March 20.
According to an authoritative leak, Washington has effectively cancelled the Europe-based missile shield system that was designed to protect that continent and Israel against Iranian ballistic missile attack. The cancellation was part of the plan announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week to install 14 additional missile interceptors in California and Alaska to build up United States defenses against a threatened North Korean attack.
Not only has the Obama administration reduced its missile defense commitment to Europe and Israel, debkafile notes that Washington persists in overlooking the tight coordination in tactics and diplomacy on nuclear issues between Pyongyang and Tehran.
The European-based missile shield has been put forward by Moscow repeatedly as a major obstacle to Russian-US cooperation on nuclear arms reduction and “other issues” – meaning the really hot-button ones of a nuclear Iran and the Syrian civil war.
By meeting Moscow’s complaint, Barack Obama was gambling heavily on coming out of the understandings he reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin with an acceptable settlement of the Iranian nuclear controversy and the future of the Assad regime in Syria.
So far, his winnings are slim.
Russian officials are not rushing forward to welcome the reshuffling of missile shields between Europe and America. Kremlin circles were quoted Sunday by The New York Times as commenting stiffly that there would be no reaction until they were fully briefed by American officials next week.
In any case, Tehran wants no part in the diplomatic softball game the Obama administration is playing with Moscow. Indeed, Iranian officials are behaving exactly like their North Korean partners – with threats.
Saturday, March 16, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri broadcast two bellicose messages on the Revolutionary Guards website sephanews.com:
1 “Our commanders have been authorized to respond to any kind of hostile move by the enemy.”
debkafile’s military sources note that this message appeared two days after Iranian Air Force fighters tried to shoot down a US Predator drone flying over the Strait of Hormuz. It also comes at a time that Iranian officers are found on field combat duty in Syria and Lebanon as well.
2. The Iranian general went on to declare: “Mr Obama, do not make a mistake: we too have all our options on the table. Before you get deeper in the region’s quagmire, go back home!”
This was Tehran’s answer to the US President’s comment Thursday in an Israeli TV Channel 2 interview:
"I have been crystal clear about my position on Iran possessing a nuclear weapon – that is a red line for us. If we can resolve it diplomatically that's a more lasting solution, but if not I continue to keep all options on the table.” Obama added that Tehran is “over a year or so” away from getting a nuclear bomb.
In Tehran’s tightly controlled publicity environment, General Jazayeri would not have dismissed the prospect of the US activating its military options with such contempt without authorization from the highest level, i.e. supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He was effectively telling the US president that, after pulling American forces out of the Middle East and relegating the handling of the Syrian issue to Moscow, “Mr.Obama” had burned his military options in the Middle East and should go home.
Our Iranian sources add that that Jazayeri’s remark was addressed equally to Israel. If Obama’s main purpose in his visit is to hear what Israelis have to say – as he himself has stressed – then he is wasting his time. , In Tehran’s view, the Israelis too have no place in the Middle East and should get out – as Iran’s leaders often declare..