There were a few seemingly minor events this week which likely had a huge effect on the actions by the many varied players in the near future. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your views and proclivities, a confrontation with Iran has a likely rough time frame finally in place though only the decision-makers know for sure the exact timing. So, what were the events and influences and what are the likely ramifications?
The first item was seemingly a response to a prediction made right here at Beyond the Cusp where we predicted a high level Obama Administration person would be making a visit to Israel due to comments made by the Israeli defense minister in an article titled Iran Nuclear Crisis Pits Barak Against Barack. The high level Administration official was Secretary of Defense Panetta who was already set for a trip to North Africa and Turkey, so a quick stop in Israel for a curt reprimand against self-inspired actions and a laying down of reasons why Israel was to heed and not try to run off leash. So, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made his obligatory stop in Jerusalem, though how he found the Israeli Capital City using Obama Administration issued maps is simply an amazement, and apparently informed the Israeli leadership that his boss, President Barack Obama, did indeed have a plan for when military action vis-à-vis Iran would be deemed necessary. Panetta’s revelations were presumed to assuage any concerns which may have been irritating Israeli leaders into doubt of American resolve which might have them believing the United States is putting undue confidence in the efficacy of sanctions. The catch was the actual time-frame where sanctions might be brought into doubt and spur a more forceful persuasion was eighteen months, that’s right, a year and a half. For some unknown reason, upon hearing this news I have the distinct feeling the Israeli leadership was anything but assuaged.
In the days since our prediction of an imminent trip of an Administration enforcer to Israel there have been numerous hints and comments from any and every direction conceivable. There have been comments from the United States, almost all from unofficial sources, that have, with near uniformity, reinforced the theme that Israel has nothing to worry about as the United States is on the job of assuring that Iran will never possess nuclear weapons. The United States has been said to be so dependable on this that the Israelis can simply lay back and leave the prevention to US. As one might expect, these assurances and the Defense Secretary’s assuaging, even when reinforced by numerous unofficial sources, have not had the desired effect upon many in Israel.
This leads to the comments from the far side of the Mediterranean Sea which probably has been viewed by the White House as being less than helpful. Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy indicated on Thursday that Israel is likely to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities in a matter of weeks. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, former head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate, predicted on an Israeli attack on Iran Friday stating, “It could happen within weeks or months. There is a need to stop Iran’s nuclear program. I do not know if Israel plans to attack soon, the Prime Minister said the issue has not yet been decided. But the way I understand the big picture, it seems it will happen soon.” And for the topper, it was rumored that Prime Minister Netanyahu has reached a point of comfort with the necessity for him to make the decision concerning Iran and the Israeli responses, if any. And the European Union has pressed Catherine Ashton, as the lead of the P5+1, to persuade, nay, implore Iranian Chief Negotiator Dr. Jalili into further negotiations. There will be another round of negotiations which will result in the same standoff as before with Iran decrying that the West is simply dragging their heels in reaching the unavoidable conclusion that negotiations must recognize Iran’s right to nuclear research and utilization.
Making any prediction would be difficult, but the one thing that is becoming obvious is that the United States under the leadership of President Obama will not be taking any actions against Iran within a timeframe that would prevent their achieving nuclear status. The question, as far as the Administration of President Barack Obama is concerned, is can Israel be kept on leash and away from attacking Iran before the November elections. They are asking the wrong question for two reasons. The first is that as long as Israel has not attacked Iran all will be well going into the election. But, if it appears that Israel is still on the verge of taking action against Iran but being restrained by President Obama, many may be forced to consider President Obama’s foreign policy with an emphasis on his actions with Israel and interactions with Prime Minister Netanyahu. This could very well pose a problem for his reelection. Secondly, if Israel were to attack in September and be successful in destroying a reasonable percentage of the Iranian nuclear facilities with minimal losses of life on both sides and yet not start a huge war in the Middle East, then Iran will be completely off the table. This could even work in President Obama’s favor for reelection if he also took a position such that his threat of enforcing the Israeli attack should Iran respond, and Iran stand-down, then he could claim this was the plan all along with fair assurance that the Israelis would back his claim in gratitude for his backing, even if forced by circumstance. So, against the going logic and opinions of most of political punditry, an Israeli attack could be turned to President Obama’s favor. We will be able to see whether the second premise turns out to be true, as it is the most likely.
Beyond the Cusp