US Defense Secretary Robert Gates from Melbourne rapped Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's knuckles for his comment in New Orleans Sunday, Nov. 7, that "Iran must be made to fear a military strike against its nuclear program." Gates shot back: "I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs to end its nuclear weapons program." He added, "We are prepared to do what is necessary but at this point we continue to believe that the political-economic approach we are taking is, in fact, having an impact on Iran."
The defense secretary did not refer to the mounting US military buildup around Iran, described by debkafile's military sources on Nov. 7 (To read article click here).
Our Washington sources report that Obama administration leaders were irritated by Netanyahu bursting through an open door. The Obama administration is in the process of applying military pressure on Iran and resents the Israeli prime minister's bid to force the pace beyond the carefully calibrated momentum. As we reported, President Barack Obama not only ordered Iran to be put in a military vice but to do so in a way that was impossible for the rulers in Tehran and the ordinary Iranian to miss. The menacing military moves were to fall short at this stage of practical preparations for an attack.
As part of this strategy, two weeks ago, the White House requested the heads of NATO to draw up operational plans for attacking Iran's nuclear and military facilities, stressing that those preparations must fall short of full-scale war, as first revealed in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 466 on Nov. 5, 2010.
Also in line with Obama's new posture on Iran were the comments Sunday, Nov. 7, by influential Senator Lindsey Graham (R. South Carolina), member of the Armed Services and Homeland Defense committees. He said: "The US should consider sinking the Iranian navy, destroying its air force and delivering a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guards." In an address to the Halifax International Security forum, he declared "They should neuter the regime…"
After Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki tried to pooh-pooh the senator's remarks as a joke – "Don’t take the American senator’s remark too seriously. He wanted to joke" – word came back that Sen. Graham stood by his remarks.
Netanyahu on the other hand may have done more harm than good by stepping into this delicate United States process which is still in its early stage, say US sources. By speaking out of turn, he may have slowed it down.
Tehran, for its part, is sending mixed signals regarding the offer by the big powers – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – to revive negotiations with Iran in Vienna Nov. 15-17. Western diplomats have said the agenda must be updated to take into account Iran's escalating uranium enrichment activity and growing arsenal of bomb-making materials.
Sunday, Mottaki suggested Turkey as the venue, in the hope of co-opting an ally to the forum, and adding the "Zionist regime's nuclear arsenal" to the agenda. He admitted that nothing had been decided about the time, agenda or venue.
A day earlier, another Iranian official said the US could take its dream of negotiations to the grave unless it gave up its "hegemonic activities."