On Iran, Dissension or Cooperation?
U.S. continues to oppose attack; Israel’s plans remain opaque
This week, the top-ranking U.S. general will visit with his Israeli counterparts, first in Brussels and later in Israel. They will not be discussing the crazy ending to the Saints-49ers game. With last week’s announcement that Iran is ready to begin and indeed may have begun to enrich uranium at a second, heavily fortified facility, there is a sense in the United States that Iran’s crossing of that Israeli red line could prompt a military strike. (Unlike in most cases, the U.S. chatter has not been provoked by public Israeli chatter.) And, so long as Iran does not begin development on an actual nuclear weapon—as opposed to the material and technology necessary to building one—the United States continues to oppose a military strike. The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that leaders up to President Obama have urged against an attack (yes, that’s what Barack and Bibi were discussing). The United States is worried that Iran may close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial energy shipping lane, and it also believes that extensive sanctions—the latest of which target Iran’s central bank, and which have had a negative effect on Iran’s economy in advance of parliamentary elections in March—will bring Iran back to the negotiating table, probably in Istanbul. The administration apparently hopes that Prime Minister Netanyahu has come around to this view: In a recent interview, Bibi described Iran as “wobbly;” already “wobbly” countries, in theory, don’t need to be bombed so much as nudged.
But according to occasional Tablet Magazine contributors Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, there is still the fundamental disagreement over the red lines: enrichment for Israel; weapon development for the United States. They note that Iran appears to be using Hezbollah to try to goad Israel into attacking. Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon complained about the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to take a tough enough stance again Iran (although, in a robust display of ignorance about American politics, he attributed this to election-year concerns). And reports have it that the United States has not received assurances from Israel that it won’t attack.
And what to make of the weekend’s news that the two countries are postponing joint military exercises scheduled for the spring? “Because it was not the right time,” was a Netanyahu spokesperson’s explanation. And the initial announcement was made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is no stranger to going rogue. If even he has been brought around to cooperating, then one suspects the U.S. administration has offered its own guarantees. But doing some reporting, Laura Rozen questioned the official Israeli line (which initially also included a reference to budget issues) and wondered whether the cancellation is a sign of strain between the two militaries, as well as Israel’s plan to take the “games” out of “war games.”
U.S. Warns Israel on Strike [WSJ]
Israel and U.S. at Odds Over Timetables and Red Lines for Iran [Haaretz]
Major U.S.-Israel Military Exercises Delayed [NYT]
U.S. Coordinating Iran Policy With Israel More Closely Amid Rising Tension [Bloomberg]
Earlier: “Bibi? It’s Barack”