The media duel over Iran between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government went up a notch Tuesday, Feb. 28 with an Associated Press report by Kimberly Dozier asserting that Israel had decided finally that if an attack on Iran was judged necessary, the US would be kept in the dark “so as not to be held responsible for failing to stop a potential Israeli attack.”
Referring to this claim, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources note that Washington would hardly need a heads-up from Israel because it commands every possible resource for finding out for itself what Israel is up to and for determining if its actions are for real or red herrings.
Indeed, last Sunday, Feb. 19, Washington’s suspicions were aroused by an Israeli military spokesman’s bulletin on the stationing of an Iron Dome anti-missile battery in the Tel Aviv district. Israel was asked for clarifications. To avoid appearing to have buckled down under US pressure, Israel waited four days before announcing a change of plan and the deployment instead of three batteries in Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod, towns which are in line for missile attacks from Gaza rather than Iran.
US and Israeli sources stress that if the country were indeed headed for war, it would not be possible to conceal every sign of preparation, especially such civil defense measures as building up stocks of medicines, fuel and food, or orders to local authorities to make bomb shelters ready.
Whenever Israel is suspected of switching over to eve-of-war mode, the Obama administration sends high officials over to talk to Israelis and find out what is going on. Indeed Western intelligence sources have taken to using the frequency of those visits as a barometer for judging the seriousness of an approaching Israeli attack on Iran.
Last week, the US President’s National Security Adviser Tom Donilon spent time in Israel after Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. He left Tuesday, Feb. 21, followed two days later by National Intelligence Director James Clapper. Sunday, Feb. 26, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak flew to Washington. March 5, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrives at the White House for his date with President Barack Obama.
Most of these US-Israeli discussions have been devoted to laying the ground for this summit by a joint reevaluation of US and Israeli intelligence on Iran’s nuclear progress, whose conclusions will be put before the two leaders.
Both governments are meanwhile setting the scene for the event with tendentious media leaks, often drawing on outdated, long-refuted materials.
One of the least plausible items was run by AP Tuesday, claiming, “US intelligence and special operations officials have tried to keep a dialogue going with Israel, despite the high-level impasse, sharing with them options such as allowing Israel to use US bases in the region from which to launch such a strike as a way to make sure the Israelis give the Americans a heads-up.”
The basic facts emerging from the hot air surrounding the issue are that the Obama administration is dead set against any Israeli military action against Iran and that it remains an active option. The president and his advisers are working overtime to prevent it happening. The last thing on Washington’s mind therefore would be to support an attack by making US bases available merely for the sake of a heads-up. And another point: if Israel feels the need to absolve the US of responsibility, why would it use US bases?
The presence of US intelligence and special operations and intelligence officials at Israel military facilities is not news; this level of military cooperation goes back years.
Tehran draws its own conclusions from the pace of US official visits to Israel and the ding dong between the two governments over an attack on its nuclear sites. This week, Iranian Defense minister classified the dispute as “a war game” and a deliberate game of deception. Of late, whenever top White House officials touch down in Israel in unusual numbers, Tehran announces yet another “large-scale military maneuver.”