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Monday, July 07, 2008

Israel: 'Cheney and Gates camps using us as a pawn'

Israeli officials complained on Sunday that two rival camps in Washington are leaking conflicting assessments about Israel's intentions with respect to Iran in a bid to advance their own positions. The camps are led by Vice President Richard Cheney (pictured, top left) - who believes that the US should deal with Iran itself - and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (pictured, lower right) - who believes that the US should wait and see and not rush to attack Iran before the end of President Bush's term.
For instance, one official said, the recent remarks made by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen to the effect that an attack on Iran and a "third front" would be bad for US interests were aimed not merely at deterring Israel from action, but also at "handcuffing" those inside the administration who are supportive of military action.

One Israeli diplomatic official said that as the debate rages in Washington, it was clear that Israel would be unable to take military action without a green light from the US.

"Everyone understands that we could not take action without US approval," the official said, "both because we would need to fly through airspace controlled by the US, and we would need their help in dealing with repercussions from any attack." The most direct air route to Iran is through Iraqi airspace, which is controlled by the US.

"We would need their help in carrying out the attack, and also afterward," the official said.

"We would have to deal with possible military action from Hizbullah and Syria, and also diplomatic fallout. Don't expect the world to clap if we attack Iran, and as a result oil prices spiral from $140 a barrel to $300 a barrel."

The official said Israel would need US diplomatic cover to deal with the world's condemnation, and possibly even sanctions, in the aftermath of a raid.

Although Israeli officials said they were not surprised by the various different assessments coming out of Washington, because they have long been aware of the internal divisions on this matter, they said they were slightly surprised by remarks made by Mullen about the "third front" because he had not issued these warnings in his meetings with top Israeli military brass during his visit to Tel Aviv last week.
As I noted on Sunday, Israel and the US have differing assessments of the gravity and urgency of the threat from Iran, although Israel's assessment is based upon far better intelligence on the ground.

It is also worth noting that some Obama aides are urging him to retain Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense in the event that - God forbid - Obama is elected President. Could that prospect be coloring Gates' judgment?

In sum, the Israeli assessment of Iran's nuclear program seems to be more realistic and Israel is the only party that cannot afford not to deal with it, since it is the party that is most immediately endangered by it. Therefore, the Cheney camp also seems to be much closer to reality in its assessments. The Gates camp, on the other hand, seems to be guilty of wishful thinking. But then, we've seen that before, haven't we?


At 8:14 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - Israel is a sovereign state and is supposed to defend itself, not worry about whether the U.S will approve. The two countries are allies but even allies national interests are not the same. Regardless of how the U.S internal debate over responding (or not responding) to Iran is played out, Israel has the sole responsibility for defending her existence. Its not something that can ever be transferred to some other country.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


True. But there is a huge difference between carrying out a bombing of Iran with US cooperation and carrying it out without US cooperation. Look at a map and keep in mind that the US controls the airspace over Iraq (the Telegraph article yesterday had a good map of the potential air routes).

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Luv4Zion said...

I think if Israel does attack Iran (because the USA is either unable or unwilling) then I do hope and pray that they at least have American support and cooperation on the mission. I think it would be in everybody's best interests. Whatever happens somebody needs to deal with Iran sooner than later.


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