Israel for itself 15

We continue to suspect that Obama wants to protect Iran from an Israeli attack on its nuclear installations.

But one part of the the report we quoted in our post Obama protects Iran from Israel, that the US called off scheduled joint military exercises with the Israelis, turns out to be untrue. They were called off by Israel itself.

This is from DEBKAfile, the source of the information we used for our earlier post:

Contrary to recent reports published in Washington, Jerusalem – and this site too – it was Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, not the Obama administration, who decided to call off the biggest ever joint US-Israeli military exercise Austere Challenge 12 scheduled for April 2012.

Washington was taken aback by the decision. It was perceived as a mark of Israel’s disapproval for the administration’s apparent hesitancy in going through with the only tough sanctions with any chance of working against Iran’s nuclear weapon program: penalizing its central bank and blocking payments for its petroleum exports.

This was the first time Israel had ever postponed a joint military exercise; it generated a seismic moment in relations between the US and Israel at a time when Iran has never been so close to producing a nuclear weapon.

This week, Netanyahu further orchestrated a series of uncharacteristically critical statements by senior ministers: Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon called the Obama administration “hesitant” (Jan. 15), after which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged the Americans to “move from words to deeds” (Jan 16).

The underlying message was that the Israeli government felt free to attack Iran’s nuclear sites on its own if necessary and at a time of its choosing.

Why now? DEBKAfile suggests four reasons:

1. Washington has taken no action against Iran’s capture of the RQ-170 stealth drone on Dec. 4 more than a month after the event, and not even pressed President Obama’s demand of Dec. 12 for the drone’s return. Tehran, for its part, continues to make hay from the event …

2. Silence from Washington also greeted the start of 20-percent grade uranium enrichment at the underground Fordo facility near Qom when it was announced Jan. 9. Last November, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned in two US TV interviews (Nov. 17 and 22) that as soon as the Fordo facility went on stream, Iran would start whisking the rest of its nuclear facilities into underground bunkers, out of reach and sight of US and Israeli surveillance.

Barak made it clear at the time that Israel could not live with this development; therefore, the Netanyahu government believes Israel’s credibility is now at stake.

3. Exactly three weeks ago, on Jan. 3 Lt. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, Iran’s Army chief, announced that the aircraft carrier USS Stennis and other “enemy ships” would henceforth be barred from entering the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz . Yet since then, no US carrier has put this threat to the test by attempting a crossing. Tehran has been left to crow.

4. Even after approving sanctions on Iran’s central bank and energy industry, the White House announced they would be introduced in stages in the course of the year. According to Israeli’s calculus, another six months free of stiff penalties will give Iran respite for bringing its nuclear weapon program to a dangerous and irreversible level.

So it does look very much as if the Israelis are planning to strike Iran. We hope they do.


Post Script: Commenters have more than once pointed out the unreliability of DEBKAfile. We agree with them, and will treat this source of information more skeptically in future.

Obama protects Iran from Israel 6

Obama hates the idea of an attack on Iran. He also hated the idea of the long-planned joint military exercises with Israel – named “Austere Challenge 12” – due to take place this spring. He looked for an excuse to scuttle them, and he found it.

That is our interpretation of the events reported here:

US-Israeli discord over action against Iran went into overdrive Sunday, Jan. 15 when the White House called off Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint war game the US and Israel have ever staged, ready to go in spring, in reprisal for a comment by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon in an early morning radio interview.

What did Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon say that elicited such a furious, punitive response from Commander-in-Chief Obama?

He said the United States was hesitant over sanctions against Iran’s central bank and oil for fear of a spike in oil prices. … He pointed out that the US Congress had shown resolve by enacting legislation for sanctions with real bite. But the White House “hesitated.” 

On the pretext of finding these statements intolerable, Obama reacted vengefully.

The row between Washington and Jerusalem is now in the open, undoubtedly causing celebration in Tehran.

Nothing was said about [what will now be done with] the 9,000 US troops who landed in Israel earlier this month for a lengthy stay.

Neither was the forthcoming visit by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, mentioned.

The official purpose of Gen. Dempsey’s visit next Thursday was supposed to be coordination between the US armed forces and the IDF. But his main object was another try to dissuade Israel’s government and military leaders from plans to strike Iran without Washington’s prior consent.

A diplomatic ruse has been resorted to:

The exercise was officially postponed from spring 2012 to the last quarter of the year over “budgetary constraints” – an obvous diplomatic locution for cancellation. It was issued urgently at an unusually early hour Washington time…  to underscore the Obama administration’s total disassociation from any preparations to strike Iran and to stress its position that if an attack took place, Israel alone would be accountable.

The “budgetary constraints” pretext for cancelling Austere Challenge 12 is hard to credit since most of the money has already been spent in flying 9,000 US troops into Israel this month. Although the exercise in which they were to have participated was billed as testing multiple Israeli and US air and missile defense systems, the exercise’s commander, US Third Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, announced that the event was more a “deployment” than an “exercise.”

But Obama does not want to deploy against Iran, and he manifestly dislikes Israel’s determination to make its own decisions about its own survival:

Neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, nor Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Deputy Prime Minster Yaalon, who are responsible for all decisions on Iran, are willing to put all their trust for defending Israel in American hands or relinquish unilateral military options against Iran. They believe US officials when they assert that the administration is prepared to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon (we don’t! – JB) but they want to see … actions to back up the rhetoric. In the light of credible intelligence that Iran is very close to achieving its nuclear goal, Israel is holding on to its military option over American objections.

The Iranian tyrants may derive some pleasure from the conflict between the Israeli and US governments, but it will not lessen their fear. The essential intransigence of Israel is more likely to increase the growing desperation in Tehran. The Iranians are trying to bluster their way out of the crisis they have put themselves into, threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz. But they know they couldn’t win over that issue. Nor could they win a war with Israel. The only thing they can do to save themselves is abandon their ambition to become a nuclear-armed power.

Obama’s Muslim bias and his chronic inability to make decisions and act effectively leaves control in the hands of Iran and Israel. What either Iran or Israel does next will force the US to react, and Obama will not be able to evade responsibility, perhaps for a new war in the middle east.