Did Obama promise Israel arms deal in exchange for delaying Iran strike after US elections?

posted at 1:55 pm on March 8, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Am I the only one who thinks that the only thing wrong with this deal is the timing, assuming Maariv’s account is accurate?

The US offered to give Israel advanced weaponry — including bunker-busting bombs and refueling planes — in exchange for Israel’s agreement not to attack Iranian nuclear sites, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported Thursday.

President Obama reportedly made the offer during Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week.

Under the proposed deal, Israel would not attack Iran until 2013, after US elections in November this year. The newspaper cited unnamed Western diplomatic and intelligence sources.

Strengthening Israeli defenses? Check. Sending a strong message to Iran about the potential consequences of developing a nuclear weapon? Check. Putting personal political ambition ahead of national security and diplomatic priorities to an American ally? Er …

It’s interesting that this report comes from an Israeli media source.  Again assuming that this is accurate, it’s likely a leak from people involved in this negotiation who find this notion offensive, whom are most likely to be the Israelis and not the Americans.  If it’s true, it’s not just offensive, it’s indefensible, and it would undermine whatever domestic political gain Obama may have achieved with his tough talk on Iran at the AIPAC conference last weekend.  After all, it’s hard to take that seriously if Obama thinks his re-election bid is more significant than the threat of nuclear-armed radical mullahs intent on wiping Israel off the face of the map.

I’d expect the usual round of denials, and in this case I’d hope that they’re true.  But if nothing else, this serves as a useful message to Iran that the US is making some sort of preparations for military action, even if the Obama administration doesn’t sound particularly apt at negotiating them. (via Daniel Foster)

Update: As a few commenters remind us, having the Obama administration attempt to bargain around election dates isn’t exactly unprecedentedReuters reports that an Israeli official calls the Maariv story “unrealistic”:

Israel has asked the United States for advanced “bunker-buster” bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran’s underground nuclear sites, an Israeli official said on Thursday.

“Such a request was made” around the time of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week, the official said, confirming media reports.

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue, played down as “unrealistic” reports that the United States would condition supplying the hardware on Israel promising not to attack Iran this year.

That’s not an explicit denial.  The White House denies any conversation about bunker busters took place, however:

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not discuss in their meetings this week an Israeli request for advanced U.S. military technology that could be used against Iran, the White House said on Thursday.

“In meetings the president had there was no such agreement proposed or reached,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. Obama and Netanyahu meet in the Oval office for two hours on Monday and then had lunch together.

We have two separate reports that the conversation did take place, and one denial. Stay tuned.


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