AntiWar.com & Ha’aretz & Agence France-Presse – 2012-03-02 00:39:05
Israeli Officials Complain of
US Reluctance to Attack Iran
John Glaser / AntiWar.com
(March 1, 2012) — Israeli officials are again complaining that public statements from top US officials have not been sufficiently supportive of waging war on Iran and have played into the hands of the Ayatollahs. This is not a first. Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other senior Israeli officials complained that US officials speaking publicly about their reluctance to start a war with Iran â€served Iranâ€™s interests.â€
The consensus in the US military and intelligence community is that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and has demonstrated no intention of doing so. Given these assessments, and in the face of an increasingly hawkish Israel and a Congress vying for war, several high level US officials have publicly warned against a preemptive military strike on Iran and have even stated that the US wouldnâ€™t back Israel if it decided to attack on its own.
â€œIf the United States doesnâ€™t broadcast determination all along the road, both in sanctions and in the threat of military action, Tehran is liable to mistakenly understand from this that 2012 is a lost year for the international community, so its nuclear program can advance as usual,â€ a senior Israeli official told Haâ€™aretz.
â€œAt the moment,â€ the official continued, â€œlargely because of the administrationâ€™s contradictory messages, the Iranians assume that nothing military will happen before the US presidential elections in November. They believe the administration fears an attack because of the danger that gas prices will rise, and that Israel wonâ€™t move without a green light from Washington. Iran is under more pressure than before because of the sanctions, but absent a unified and determined front against it, it wonâ€™t change its mind about the nuclear issue.â€
Of course, as best as anybody can tell, the Iranians have made up their mind about the nuclear issue. Namely, they have decided not to develop nuclear weapons, to allow inspections and 24 hour surveillance at all 15 of their declared enrichment sites, and to ask for peaceful negotiations and a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. The latter suggestion is rejected outright by Israel, which may be the crux of the problem, as opposed to American reluctance to start another unnecessary war.
Top Israeli Official: Conflicting US Remarks Hurt Efforts to Press Iran
Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel / Ha’aretz
TEL AVIV (March 2, 2012) — Though Israeli officials are deeply divided over whether Israel should attack Iran in the coming months, they are united on one point – a flood of contradictory statements about Iran’s nuclear program by US officials in recent weeks is undermining efforts to increase pressure on Tehran.
Many of these American statements, a senior Israeli government official told Ha’aretz, have led Iran to believe there is no real danger of an attack on its nuclear program, and therefore, there is no need to halt it.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a series of meetings on the Iranian issue in Washington this week, including with Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Next week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Washington, where he will discuss the issue with US President Barack Obama.
US officials have repeatedly criticized Israeli officials for their excessive “chatter” about Iran, but Israeli officials have the same criticism of their American peers. Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, and many others have all spoken about Iran recently – and their statements often contradict each other.
Sometimes, the same official has even made contradictory statements about attacking Iran within the space of a few days. At times, officials reiterate that “all options are on the table.” At others, they go into detail about how damaging a military strike would be.
Panetta spoke at length at the Saban Forum three months ago about why an attack would be ineffective, and Dempsey has made similar statements recently. But during Senate testimony earlier this week, Dempsey tried to walk back on some of those statements, apparently partly in response to Israel’s objections.
“If the United States doesn’t broadcast determination all along the road, both in sanctions and in the threat of military action, Tehran is liable to mistakenly understand from this that 2012 is a lost year for the international community, so its nuclear program can advance as usual,” the senior Israeli official said.
“At the moment, largely because of the administration’s contradictory messages, the Iranians assume that nothing military will happen before the US presidential elections in November. They believe the administration fears an attack because of the danger that gas prices will rise, and that Israel won’t move without a green light from Washington. Iran is under more pressure than before because of the sanctions, but absent a unified and determined front against it, it won’t change its mind about the nuclear issue.”
During Netanyahu’s visit next week, Israel is hoping to get a clear answer about where Washington’s red lines on the Iranian nuclear program lie. Clinton told the Senate this week that US policy is to prevent Iran from “obtaining nuclear weapons.” Israel wants more clarity about where exactly Washington draws the line, and what it is willing to do to prevent that line from being crossed.
On Thursday, perhaps in an effort to calm Israel down, the American media were filled with reports about America’s ability to attack Iran. Bloomberg quoted Air Force commander Gen. Norton Schwartz as saying that the United States was preparing for various military scenarios involving Iran, and “you wouldn’t want to be in the area” if any of them came to pass.
The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon is sure its bunker busters can even penetrate Iran’s underground enrichment facility at Fordow.
Israel, for its part, made its desire for answers from Washington clear in an opinion piece published in The New York Times on Thursday by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s Military Intelligence who today heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Noting that America’s vastly greater military capabilities give it a much longer window of opportunity for attacking Iran than Israel has, Yadlin warned that these “differing timetables are becoming a source of tension.” Should Israel accede to Washington’s request not to attack, he added, that would “make Washington a de facto proxy for Israel’s security.”
Yadlin criticized US officials for warning Israel against military action without specifying how America would deal with Iran if Israel refrains. Without an “ironclad American assurance” that Washington will take military action if all else fails, he warned, “Israeli leaders may well choose to act while they still can.”
Iran Minister Optimistic Nuclear Talks Will Go Ahead:
Calls for Nuclear-free Middle East
GENEVA (February 29, 2012) — Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday he was optimistic that talks with the international community over its controversial atomic activities would go ahead. “We expect the dialogue that has started will continue,” Salehi told reporters after giving a speech to the UN Conference on Disarmament in which he repeated Iran’s stance that it considers nuclear weapons a “great sin.”
His comments came after the International Atomic Energy Agency said last week it had “major differences” with Iran after two fruitless visits probing suspected nuclear weapons work.
The IAEA trip had been seen as having an impact on the possible resumption of talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany — which broke down 13 months ago.
“We do not see any glory, pride or power in nuclear weapons, quite the opposite,” Salehi said in his speech in Geneva. “Based on the religious decree issued by our supreme leader, the production, possession, use or threat of the use of nuclear weapons are illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin.”
Salehi reiterated that Tehran considers there are two alternatives in dealing with its “peaceful nuclear program.” “One way is engagement, cooperation and interaction, and the other is confrontation and conflict,” he said, adding that Iran has “always insisted” on the first option.
Salehi also said that the majority of Middle East states, including Iran and Egypt, want to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and that the was “only obstacle to the creation of such a zone,” in an apparent reference to Israel.
“It is a matter of concern that all efforts to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East have not yet succeeded, due to its persistent refusal to join the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and to place its nuclear facilities under the IAEA safeguards system.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier Tuesday warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would control the major Gulf oil producers, send energy prices soaring, and “choke” the global economy. Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, says all options are open to stop Tehran’s ambitions, but it is under intense pressure from Washington and Europe not to launch a pre-emptive military strike.
Copyright 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.
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