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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Israel on Iran: 'Don't ask.' 'Don't tell' too?

The Washington Times' Eli Lake is reporting exclusively that the Netanyahu government has concluded that it will never get permission to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities from the Obama administration, and therefore it will not ask for that permission. Lake's report is based on conversations with 'two Israeli officials.'
One senior Israeli official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told The Washington Times that Mr. Netanyahu determined that "it made no sense" to press the matter after the negative response President Bush gave Mr. Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, when he asked early last year for U.S. aid for possible military strikes on Iran.

Israel is increasingly nervous that Iran is developing the capability to build a nuclear weapon, an intention Iran denies. However, Israel is unlikely to attack Iran without at least tacit U.S. approval, in part because that would require cooperation from the United States. At the very least, Israel likely would have to fly over Iraqi airspace, which is still effectively controlled by the U.S. Air Force.


A senior Israeli official said that Israel has not asked for U.S. aid or permission because the Netanyahu government doesn't want to risk being told "no."

"There was a decision not to press this because it was probably inadequate for the engagement policy and what we know about Obama's approach to Iran," he said.
None of this is really surprising and I hope that no 'Israeli official' has been naive enough to believe that the Obama administration would ever approve an Israeli strike on Iran. It was clear as soon as Obama took office that approval would not be forthcoming. At the moment, Obama is not even willing to consider a 'Plan B' if 'negotiations' fail.

But some of you may have thought that Vice President Biden's statements on ABC This Week on Sunday might have at least constituted the 'tacit approval' that Israel was seeking. Spokesman Ian Kelly of the State Department seemingly denied that on Monday.
"We are certainly not going to give a green light to any kind of military strike, but Israel is a sovereign country and we're not going to dictate its actions," State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly said on Monday.

"We share the Israelis' deep concerns about Iran's nuclear program," Kelly said. "But you have to ask Israel if they are going to make a strike."
What does that mean? Let's call it 'plausible deniability.' I believe that's an exercise in futility - there is no way Iran won't blame the US too if Israel does strike it, but the US is likely trying to set up a way of denying involvement for the rest of the world.

In case anyone doesn't understand why Israel would be risking a 'red light' if it asks US permission to attack Iran, Lake adds:
Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said that if Israel were to give the United States advance notice of its intention to strike Iran, it would be risking a "red light."

"That could force the president to choose Israel's security over his desired rapprochement with Iran. An ugly and dangerous outcome for all concerned," she said.
Now that Israeli policy on Iran is apparently 'don't ask the United States,' I believe it ought to be 'don't tell' as well. The Obama administration is investing so much in its efforts to 'engage' Iran that there is reason to fear that it would find it hard not to warn Iran if it knows of an Israeli strike in advance. The United States should be told at the last possible minute about an Israeli strike, hopefully just as the bombs start hitting.


At 11:51 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

As I said before, Carl - US permission is not necessary to launch missiles from Israeli subs. Since they would be in international waters, the time Israel missiles spend over Arab airspace is insignificant. I'm personally opposed to an Osirak-type attack on Iran. That is exactly what Iran is planning to defend against. Since no aircraft would be involved, its not even necessary to notify the US at all. Obama can find out like the rest of the world once its all over.


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