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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Obama's top priority remains: Avoid attacking Iran

With President Obama due in Israel later this week (and likely to make a mess of pre-Passover traffic at week's end - including on Friday fellow Jerusalemites), one thing it's increasingly clear he's not going to do is to attack Iran. In fact, it's clear that Obama's main goal is to stop Prime Minister Netanyahu from attacking Iran. Obama is arriving with a new 'timetable' which gives Iran even more time to develop a nuclear weapon.
But in setting a timeline for development of an Iranian nuclear weapon that is longer than the more urgent one usually cited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Obama appeared to be tamping down any expectations for pre-emptive action against Iran while aiming to assure its closest Mideast ally of U.S. support. It was the first time Mr. Obama had himself publicly stated a timeline.
Mr. Obama told Channel 2 the U.S. commitment to Israel's security was "unbreakable."
Underlying the growing tensions over Iran's nuclear program, the comments came as the Pentagon on Thursday disclosed details of an encounter Tuesday between U.S. and Iranian fighter jets after an Iranian plane approached a U.S. surveillance drone.
When two U.S. fighter planes escorting the drone flew toward the Iranian plane, it broke off its pursuit, the Pentagon said. The Iranian plane never got closer than 16 miles from the drone, the Pentagon said. The U.S. fighters closed to within two miles of the Iranian plane.
U.S. officials wouldn't specify what kind of American planes were involved or precisely where the incident took place.
U.S. defense experts played down the encounter on Tuesday between the U.S. and Iranian fighters, the latest confrontation involving American surveillance aircraft and the Iranian military.
Iran has claimed to shoot down or capture a string of American drones, and last November, an Iranian fighter plane fired at a drone, missing.
"These incidents are far more common than are publicized," said Christopher Harmer, senior Naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. "Predator drones are not stealthy and there is no real secret of where we are flying or what we are doing."
Mr. Obama's Thursday statements reflect U.S. military and intelligence assessments that Tehran hasn't decided to build a bomb and that it would take a year or more once ruling clerics decide to do so.
The competing time frames have split the U.S. and Israeli governments since last year, when Mr. Netanyahu stood before the United Nations and drew a thick red line across a drawing of a bomb. Mr. Netanyahu has said world powers should be prepared for the prospect of military action against Iran by this summer.
Israeli officials didn't immediately respond to Mr. Obama's comments. Earlier on Thursday, the head of Israel's military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, said Iran's nuclear program was "advancing slower than Iran had hoped, but it is progressing."
Mr. Obama's comments had yet to reach many of the Israel's staunch defenders in the U.S. on Thursday.
It's clear that Obama's priority is pushing out the timeline of a strike for as long as possible and probably also extracting the highest possible price from Israel in return for American assistance.

Curiously, the only 'pro-Israel' comment the Wall Street Journal got in response was from Jeremy Ben-Ami, whose organization is described as 'pro-Israel but less hawkish than the others.'

What could go wrong?

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At 4:15 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

That's why he stated last week that Iran is more then a year away from a nuclear weapon.
I wouldn't believe him if he told me the Sun will raise tomorrow.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

My thought is that Obama knows Iran already is nuclear and he's delivering a warning in person to Israel to remind them there's nothing they can do about and the US will not interfere on Israel's behalf. He's pretty clearly running out the clock on sanctions because they are irrelevant to the stated purpose.


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