The muted responses of US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the matter at the top of their agenda, the IAEA report accusing Iran of building a nuclear weapon program, were in line with the same shared tactics which dictated the report's publication date of Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The US and Israeli administrations have worked their way through to an exceptional level of policy coordination in more than one active sphere.
Although in Syria, Bashar Assad has been massacring his people for eight months, the US administration continues to shun military intervention and Israel, which shares a border with Syria, distances itself from its domestic upheaval.
The Obama administration has made the Supreme Military Council ruling Egypt a keystone of its Middle East policy. The Netanyahu government, for its part, treats the Egyptian generals with respect and consideration. Any upsets between Cairo and Jerusalem are handled delicately and with dispatch at the highest levels using Egypt's Intelligence Minister Murad Mofai and the Israeli intelligence Mossad Director Tamir Pardo as go-betweens.
Obama and Netanyahu are also of one mind over the Palestinian question. And, ahead of military action against Iran, Obama insisted on the Turkish and Israeli prime ministers mending their prickly relations.
And indeed the confrontational tones have disappeared from their discourse. Ankara, for instance, has stopped raising objections to the deal whereby Cyprus and Israel have reserved their oil and gas drilling zones in the eastern Mediterranean.
A harmonious working relationship
The US and Israeli leaders, though not exactly buddies at the personal level, are in close, amicable dialogue, almost daily, because harmonious coordination between them is essential for the success of a joint operation to destroy Iran's nuclear program. Rarely has a US president concerned himself with so many tiny minutiae of a military operation, especially not with a foreign leader.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington describe three levels of intensive interaction between the two capitals:
The first is the direct line between the president and the prime minister. Their decisions are handed down to US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has spent most of the last two months in Washington, for laying out the master planning. This is passed to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of staff and the IDF Chief of Staff of the IDF, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, for the next stage.
CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus and Mossad, Military Intelligence and Shin Bet directors, Tamir Pardo, Brig. Aviv Cochavi and Yoram Cohen are briefed on intelligence aspects of the operation.
The planning goes into the smallest details so as to leave nothing to chance.
Those involved are fully aware that they are charting the largest military operation in history against a national nuclear program. The armies of 13 nations will be involved and more may be drawn in at some point.
In addition to the US, Israel and Iran, the planners cite Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia as involved actively or potentially.
The IDF would provide the sharp point of the operation
The veil was briefly lifted from the advance preparations when straight after Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed cooperating on the Iran venture in the last week of October, the British Chief of staff Gen. Sir David Richards arrived in Israel on Nov. 2 on an unannounced visit, followed the next day by the Israeli defense minister's arrival in London to tie up the ends of the UK's role in the operation.
Next week, Barak has scheduled another of his frequent trips to Washington for a visit of undetermined length. Thursday, Nov. 10, the London Daily Mail revealed that British ministers had been told to expect Israeli military action "as early as Christmas or very early in the new year."
The paper added: "Ministry of Defense sources in London confirmed that contingency plans have been drawn up in the event that the UK decided to support military action."
Although it must be assumed that this report, like other stories appearing in the media these days, was deliberately misleading – particularly with regard to the timeline – it appeared to be signaling that the Cameron government had come aboard.
The final timetable will depend on a host of variables, such as the weather, the position of the moon with respect to tides, storms in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf and the seasonal directions of underwater coastal currents. However, it is generally expected to go forward as expeditiously as possible.
In many ways, President Obama views the NATO operation just ended in Libya, and its focus on air and sea bombardment and actions by small special forces units, as a curtain-raiser for the campaign against Iran – only this time he wants to see not only the US but also other Western allies taking a back seat.
Israel would provide the sharp end of the attack, with the allies providing all the necessary intelligence, logistic and air and missile defense, so as to leave Israel's armed forces (IDF) free to fully focus on the offensive part of the operation.
Days not weeks needed to accomplish the mission
Neither Obama nor Netanyahu supports the theory that Israel would take three months to disable Iran's nuclear installations and its elite Revolutionary Guards bases. They agree that a blitz offensive could do the job in 10 days to two weeks.
According to some expert assessments, the exercise of IDF might to its fullest extent, with efficient support from Western logistical and intelligence infrastructure should suffice without the need for extra time. If, however, Israel fails to accomplish its missions, then the question of direct US military intervention along with West European armies will arise.
There are two reasons to assume that the Iran operation will be brief:
1. Its purpose is not regime change in Tehran but is limited to disabling Iran's primary nuclear facilities and the command structure of the Revolutionary Guards. US military planners believe the two objectives can be achieved in five days to a week.
2. It is hoped that a blitz campaign if short enough will not draw Syria and Hizballah into the war. Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah will want to see which way the winds of war blow before committing their forces to a confrontation – not just with Israel but with the United States and a host of European armies.
Plan incorporates surprises for Iran
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that there is no resemblance between the operational master plan approved by Obama and Netanyahu and the hypothetical scenarios published in recent weeks. The essential feature of the plan is speed. The nature of the weaponry and tactics are kept under tight wraps in order catch Iran by surprise.
The sympathetic working relationship cultivated between the US president and the Israeli prime minister has not completely dispelled their old mutual distrust. Obama still entertains a lingering suspicion that Netanyahu may at some point act unilaterally, possibly by jumping the gun on the attack, while the Israeli leader fears Obama may pull back at the last minute.
However, according to our sources in Washington and Jerusalem, preparations for the strike are so far advanced and Western allies like Britain, France and Germany so deeply committed, that it is almost impossible for either leader to go off on a unilateral tangent without the other.
At the same time, those sources warn that right up until D-Day, some unforeseen event may not be ruled out for throwing the plan off-course.