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Monday, July 06, 2009

A green light?

The big headline in Israel on Monday is Vice President Joe Biden's statement that Israel is a sovereign country and that it can do whatever it sees fit to protect itself from Iran's nuclear threat. While ordinarily I might have viewed that as a yellow light ('we won't stop you' - as if this administration is capable of stopping anyone from doing anything), Israel Radio went so far as to claim that the Obama administration has lost patience with Iran and is giving Israel a green light. While there is ample ground for everyone to give up on sanctions and do what needs to be done in Iran, I don't believe the Obama administration has given up on 'engagement.' But it's also not willing to do anything to stop Israel from attacking Iran. In fact, given this administration's weakness, and the overwhelming feeling everywhere outside of Washington (and Caracas and Damascus) that something must be done, I'm not sure the Obama administration could stop Israel from attacking even if it wanted to stop it.

The only way I could get Biden's actual comments on Israel was to take the full interview (ABC did not excerpt them separately and their embedding system doesn't allow editing). So here's the full interview. Let's go to the videotape. The part about Israel is from 10:03-11:47.

The full transcript of Biden's interview is here (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).

In Israel this morning, as I predicted, the Israeli government is denying the Saudi overflight story. But what's really curious is that the Saudis are not. The story in the English-language Arab News cites Biden's comments at length, but says nothing about the Saudis allegedly granting Israel permission to overfly their country.
US Vice President Joe Biden seemed to give Israel the green light for military action to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat, saying the US “cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.”

Israel considers Iran its most dangerous adversary and is wary of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who just won a disputed re-election. He repeatedly has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and contends the Holocaust is a “myth.” Israel and the US accuse Iran of seeking to develop weapons under the cover of a nuclear power program. Iran denies that.

“Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else,” Biden told ABC’s “This Week” in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“Whether we agree or not. They’re entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed,” Biden said.
Is that no comment a confirmation? I believe that it is. Of course, since it could be argued that the Saudis have denied meeting with Israelis, they don't feel the need to issue another denial, but I don't buy that. I think they want the Iranians to know that they have given their approval.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen was asked about Biden's comments on CBS's Face the Nation. Here's that interview. Let's go to the videotape. The part about Israel and Iran here is from 8:45-10:15.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Note again that he doesn't say the US will do anything to stop Israel from attacking Iran (he calls it a 'political decision'). A transcript of the full program is here (.pdf link). Mullen is the first interviewee.

JPost is reporting on Monday morning that IAF pilots are going to be doing some traveling.
IAF planes will take part this year in a joint aerial exercise with a NATO-member state that cannot be identified.

In addition, later this month, the air force will send F-16C fighter jets to participate in the Red Flag exercise at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. At the same time, several of the IAF's C-130 Hercules transport aircraft will participate in the Rodeo 2009 competition at the McChord Air Force Base in Washington state.

Defense officials said the overseas exercises would be used to drill long-range maneuvers. Last summer, more than 100 IAF jets flew over Greece in what was viewed as a test-run for a potential strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Israel has a number of defense pacts with countries under which the air force is allowed to fly in foreign airspace. In May, the French newsweekly L'Express reported that the IAF had staged military exercises over Gibraltar, some 4,000 km. away from Israel.

In 2006, then-defense minister Shaul Mofaz signed a five-year cooperation agreement allowing IDF forces to deploy in Romania for joint training exercises. In 1996, Israel and Turkey signed a bilateral defense alliance allowing their air forces to fly in each other's airspace.

The IAF did not participate in the recent multi-nation Anatolian Eagle aerial exercise in Turkey, "but defense officials said that the absence was not due to tensions between the countries sparked by Operation Cast Lead earlier this year."

Israel's rare absence from the exercise earlier this month drew attention and was reported on by the Turkish media. Another and larger Anatolian Eagle exercise will be held later this year. Israel has yet to announce if it will participate.
You will note in the Biden interview that he says that Binyamin Netanyahu gave President Obama a commitment to let the 'diplomatic track' play out until the end of this year. But it seems that come January 1, 2010 all bets are off. Israel has a green light to attack.


At 9:52 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I think Israel and the Saudis have a tacit understanding. The Saudis will never endorse an Israeli attack against a fellow Muslim country but they won't object to Israel's stopping an Iranian bomb. Every one's playing out their script and the surprising thing is Obama has figured out Iran won't give him anything... the "diplomatic track" will lead nowhere.

All that's left is to await the finale.



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