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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Obama leaks again?

With two days remaining to the US Presidential election, in a pitch to Israel's supporters in the United States, the Obama administration is hinting that it was complicit in an alleged Israeli attack on an Iranian weapons depot in Khartoum last month. This is from the first link.
The more interesting question is whether the United States was involved. The Arabic daily Al-Hayat reports that some Sudanese officials believe the United States knew about the strike in advance and closed its embassy for fear of retribution. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland called the article "misreporting," noting that the embassy has been closed since September 12 for security reasons.
But there's more than innuendo. On October 24, Israel and the United States held a large joint military exercise, known as Austere Challenge 2012, in which 3,500 U.S. troops took part. Austere Challenge involved the deployment of sophisticated US missile defense systems in Israel, but no aircraft, according to the US Department of Defense. Yet, just hours before the exercise began, four jets — widely believed to be Israeli — reportedly bombed a weapons depot tied to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
It is also important to note that Yarmouk has been a target of interest for both the United States and Israel for some time. A leaked 2006 State Department cable notes that the plant had the "potential to make a material contribution to missile, WMD, or certain other weapons programs." Later that year, State also flagged it on its federal registry as an entity of proliferation concern. As early as 1998, Human Rights Watch also noted its concern that Yarmouk "stored chemical weapons for Iraq."
One American defense official familiar with U.S. operations in North Africa believes there is a distinct possibility "the Israelis did this with the American military right there, without telling them." My colleague Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative, agrees. He adds, "it's a possible foretaste of what would happen by June against [nuclear installations in] Iran. The Israelis will not ask for U.S. permission to carry out a raid against Iran." However, Major Robert Firman, a public affairs officer at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told me that the U.S. military had "no foreknowledge" and provided "no assistance" in the reported attack on Sudan.


Finally, Gerecht adds, the number of jets needed to attack Iran could be roughly 20 times that which hit Sudan. For that reason, it's difficult to conceive of a direct attack on Iran without some sort of American involvement.
That's precisely why the presence of the U.S. military in Israel during the recent large-scale military operation in Sudan is so intriguing. Indeed, whether or not the U.S. was involved almost doesn't matter. Iran must now account for this recent episode in its nuclear calculus. The very possibility that Jerusalem and Washington have closed the gap in their debate over Iran intervention is a weapon all its own.
 Hmmm. So did Obama leak? Or is it for real this time?

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