U.S. ambassador to Israel: We’re “ready” to attack Iran if necessary

posted at 7:01 pm on May 17, 2012 by J.E. Dyer

Why in the world were these things said?

“It would have been better to solve it (the Iranian nuclear crisis) in a diplomatic way, by using pressure and without applying military force,” the ambassador clarified at the closed meeting, “But that does not mean that this [attack] option is not possible. Not only is it possible, it is ready. The necessary planning is in place to make sure it’s ready.”

Well, OK.  The question is not whether we are ready or should be ready for this option – um, of course we are; would we tell anyone if we weren’t? – the question is why our ambassador in Israel would say this.  (Read the full comments for the unnecessarily explicit flavor.)

First of all, an ambassador – or at least his top advisors – knows that bellicose comments of this kind do not accord with the conventions of diplomacy.  You don’t go around assuring other nations that you’ve been practicing to attack a third party.  Besides being operationally stupid, it’s potentially both destabilizing and destructive to your credibility.

Instead, you state what your national interests are, you clarify the outcome you’re looking for, and you assure the relevant audience that you will do what it takes to protect your interests and secure your outcomes.  The point is not whether the audience knows that you have actually tested a military OPLAN (who cares? We test them regularly), the point is for them to understand exactly what you want and the seriousness of your determination.

A warning (or, in this case, an assurance) that the US is ready to attack Iran was almost certainly given on orders from the White House, since it’s not something a diplomat would naturally be moved to say, or say without permission.  It’s a combination of operational TMI and inflammatory rhetoric: a sort of anti-diplomacy.

Second, this is a threat that can’t be convincingly conveyed in a fey, indirect manner.  If we mean this threat and we want it to affect Iran’s decisions, then say it to Iran.  (I would advise putting it in different terms.)  Putting the threat out there in the guise of an assurance to Israel just looks manipulative.

It also looks spurious and irresponsible, if we’re going to sit down with the Iranians in Baghdad later this month and “negotiate.”  What, exactly, are the Iranians supposed to assume about this threat?  What action of theirs could trigger it?  Does it clarify the US position, or obfuscate it?  With the threat of war, it is not actually a good idea to be overly clever and create doubt about triggers and your intentions. If you’re going to deploy the war card, certainty is the mindset you want your intended audience to have.

In any case, if the US and the Western powers make the offer of a sweet deal for Iran, in the hope of getting some kind of agreement – a prospect endorsed by the analysis of long-time observer Gerald Seib in this video – that signal will be at odds with the over-explicit threat of attack.  It would be hard to be convincing about a coherent position in that case.

Regarding the point on military preparations, I know many readers try to stay abreast of where the aircraft carriers are, and that’s not necessarily a fool’s errand.  It’s important not to go all “Pat Buchanan” about it – there are two carriers in the Persian Gulf region at least twice a year because they are turning over their patrol duties; it’s not a sign of the Apocalypse – but it can be a useful indicator.  That said, I advise you not to try this at home if you aren’t familiar with US Navy operations.  The presence of two or more carriers in the Central Command “AOR” (area of responsibility) is almost always an indicator of strike group turnover – or simply a coincidence due to a rare circumstance like USS Abraham Lincoln’s (CVN-72) recent change of homeport from Everett, Washington to Norfolk, Virginia, which involved an extra transit through (and deployment in) the Middle East.

The US administration announced earlier this year that it would be keeping two carriers on station in the Gulf region for the time being.  That gives the president a ready option in case he wants to ramp up pressure on Iran.  I would not obsess over the carriers, however.  They will undoubtedly participate if there is a strike on Iran – they will be indispensable for keeping the Strait of Hormuz open, and their F/A-18 strike-fighters will no doubt be used for the precision targeting of hardened sites, among other tasks for the airwings – but they may well not be the centerpiece of the operation.

If President Obama were to scope a strike on Iran as I believe he would – narrowly, striking only a limited set of nuclear-related targets – the strike may well be conducted as a “prompt global strike,” according to the doctrine and capability of the same name, which has been in development since the last year of the Bush administration.  It could involve mostly cruise missiles and “global airpower”:  B-2 and B-52 bombers launching their missions at a distance from Iran, including launches from US territory; i.e., Whiteman and Barksdale.  (I doubt that it would involve long-range ballistic missiles, which are not accurate enough for most applications in this kind of strike.)  The strike would certainly be conventional, not nuclear.

All that said, if an agreement is reached with Iran in the next couple of months, it will be because the agreement is advantageous to Iran, delaying the EU sanctions which are to kick in this summer, and requiring nothing of Iran that the mullahs were not willing to concede.  Any agreement that does not entail full, unannounced inspection of all Iran’s suspect facilities and nuclear-related programs, as well as Iran’s adherence to the “Additional Protocol” of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, is an agreement that will not stop the nuclear weapons program.  That kind of agreement, however, is what we are virtually guaranteed to get.

For the United States, issuing attack threats in the manner of Hugo Chavez is not a convincing posture.  I don’t know if the Israelis will find it reassuring; I suspect the Europeans and Iranians will find it annoying, and decide to ignore it.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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Comments

…JugEars ears will fall off!

KOOLAID2 on May 17, 2012 at 7:06 PM

Nice Post J E Dyer!!..:)

PS..I agree with El Rushbo..Teams Obie’s internal polling must be looking bad!!..:)

Dire Straits on May 17, 2012 at 7:06 PM

…so much for the Arab Spring!

KOOLAID2 on May 17, 2012 at 7:07 PM

It’s a bluff and the Iranians will see straight through it.

The current regime isn’t going to do anything at all about Iran.

More cack-handed Smart Power.

CorporatePiggy on May 17, 2012 at 7:08 PM

NOW THIS IS SHINY !!!!

FlaMurph on May 17, 2012 at 7:08 PM

Our first gay president is composing a love letter to the ayatollah as we read this, because his letters to the mullahs worked so well in the past.

Philly on May 17, 2012 at 7:10 PM

October surprise?

OldEnglish on May 17, 2012 at 7:12 PM

“I say son, looka here , Obama doesn’t need no stinkin pre-conditions”

(must be said with your best Foghorn imitation)

FlaMurph on May 17, 2012 at 7:14 PM

Of course, nothing is our fault. All the war mongering is Iran’s fault.

It’s important not to go all “Pat Buchanan” about it

Read: pay no attention to those opposed to our interventionism and who warn about its consequences.

Dante on May 17, 2012 at 7:14 PM

I love reading posts by J.E. Dyer. They’re way more informative than anything I might see in the MSM.

As for this, it’s just the latest in a long line of diplomatic screw ups by the US.

joekenha on May 17, 2012 at 7:16 PM

The current regime isn’t going to do anything at all about Iran.

More cack-handed Smart Power.

CorporatePiggy on May 17, 2012 at 7:08 PM

Nor should they. Keep scoffing at people who call America an imperial power, while also calling for America to behave as one.

Dante on May 17, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Obama can’t be a very good poker player, he just showed his hand.

Better stick to Liars Poker Bammie, that seems to be your forte.

fogw on May 17, 2012 at 7:20 PM

Nice Post J E Dyer!!..:)

PS..I agree with El Rushbo..Team Obie’s internal polling must be looking bad!!..:)

Dire Straits on May 17, 2012 at 7:06 PM

Fixed!..:)

Dire Straits on May 17, 2012 at 7:23 PM

U.S. ambassador to Israel: We’re “ready” to attack Iran if necessary

.
We are?
Crap, looks like I have to go pack my duffle bag again.

LincolntheHun on May 17, 2012 at 7:25 PM

J.E.
Bubba Clinton has already explained, Barry’s an amateur.

He gets ‘street cred’ with the Jewish vote. He gets to rattle a saber he won’t pull, strengthening his foreign policy credentials ahead of a meeting.

Oh, did I mention that he killed OBL?

If it turns to crap, then it’s just another case of one of Barry’s minions ‘leaning too far forward on his skis’.

GarandFan on May 17, 2012 at 7:30 PM

It’s all bluster. One of the first things we Americans will say in the Baghdad negotiations is that “we will have more flexibility after the election”

bs4948800 on May 17, 2012 at 7:40 PM

Absent a smoking gun complex of nuke buildings that cant possibly be ignored, I have zero faith that Obama will do anything to stop Iran from building and deploying a nooklar weapon, and I have little faith that Romney will do anything about it.

I do however have faith that Israel will take whatever calculated risk it must to delay…at least by a few decades…the eventual (sometime in this century) nuking of Tel Aviv by Islamic nutters.

Sacramento on May 17, 2012 at 7:47 PM

Nor should they. Keep scoffing at people who call America an imperial power, while also calling for America to behave as one.

Dante on May 17, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Keep ignoring Iran’s direct and indirect military action against the United States, jews, and others dating back for decades.

I love you Ron Paul types.

You wish it one way.

The thing is – it’s the other way.

CorporatePiggy on May 17, 2012 at 7:51 PM

Obama will do whatever he has to to get re-elected. If starting WWIII is it, no problem.

JellyToast on May 17, 2012 at 7:54 PM

I think we were always “ready” to nuke the Soviets during the Cold War. Look how that turned out.

Don’t get me wrong, I want us to nuke Iran, but this isn’t some kind of promise or anything.

solatic on May 17, 2012 at 7:58 PM

Keep ignoring Iran’s direct and indirect military action against the United States, jews, and others dating back for decades.

I love you Ron Paul types.

You wish it one way.

The thing is – it’s the other way.

CorporatePiggy on May 17, 2012 at 7:51 PM

How much of that occurred before we ordered the CIA to overthrow their constitutional monarch and install a dictator?

Dante on May 17, 2012 at 8:02 PM

The October surprise in May??? SCOAMF’s internal polling must be absolutely disastrous for an administration flunky to make this announcement; especially after 3.5 years of abusing Israel.

The ironic thing is, had Preezy supported the Green Revolution in 2009, which might very well have toppled the mullah-ocracy, he’d really have accomplished something that even I would have acknowledged.

He really is a stuttering cluster-fark of a miserable failing tyrant.

Rixon on May 17, 2012 at 8:03 PM

A warning (or, in this case, an assurance) that the US is ready to attack Iran was almost certainly given on orders from the White House, since it’s not something a diplomat would naturally be moved to say, or say without permission. It’s a combination of operational TMI and inflammatory rhetoric: a sort of anti-diplomacy.

Perhaps it’s “gutsy” diplomacy, or something.

Maybe Obama the Great recently reread The Prince and has rethought the benefits of a little war just before an election.

Or maybe Teh One told the mullahs and Ahmadinejad through back channels that he will be more flexible after the election. But for now he needs to look tough — wink, wink.

Whatever it is, it’s not how you do diplomacy. You make explicit threats like this behind closed doors. In public you remain vague and say things like “all options are on the table”.

My question is did President Rambo make this public threat and saber-rattling call on his own or on the advice of others. I would think Panetta and Hillary! know better than to do this, but maybe not.

farsighted on May 17, 2012 at 8:07 PM

Dante on May 17, 2012 at 8:02 PM

So, okay. Where’s our “empire?” You seem to think that we live in a vacuum. A nation must do what it has to to protect its interests and to defend itself, even if it means toppling the occasional tyrant (Mossadegh in this case). And in our case, to liberate tens of millions of people as we have done over the past century. Unfortunately, we have to sometimes align ourselves with some unsavory people. That’s reality. But the world is far and away a better place when we intervene to protect our interests than when we don’t. An honest accounting of history would show this.

Rixon on May 17, 2012 at 8:09 PM

The only problem is, of course, that obama is a sworn enemy of Israel – obama is much more likely to attack Israel than he is to attack Iran.

Don’t let your guard down Israel!

Pork-Chop on May 17, 2012 at 8:10 PM

He is attempting to “buy” the Jewish vote. It is an obvious bluff. If he did attack Iran before the election he would lose his hard left base that is totally antiwar at any cost whatsoever. Thankfully, Israel will do whatever it takes to secure itself. If Israel does or should I say when attacks Iran, the United States will have to finish the job.

SC.Charlie on May 17, 2012 at 8:25 PM

Dante on May 17, 2012 at 8:02 PM

So, okay. Where’s our “empire?” You seem to think that we live in a vacuum. A nation must do what it has to to protect its interests and to defend itself, even if it means toppling the occasional tyrant (Mossadegh in this case). And in our case, to liberate tens of millions of people as we have done over the past century. Unfortunately, we have to sometimes align ourselves with some unsavory people. That’s reality. But the world is far and away a better place when we intervene to protect our interests than when we don’t. An honest accounting of history would show this.

Rixon on May 17, 2012 at 8:09 PM

Wow.

Dante on May 17, 2012 at 8:32 PM

How much of that occurred before we ordered the CIA to overthrow their constitutional monarch and install a dictator?

Dante on May 17, 2012 at 8:02 PM

I sense you’re trying to make a point.

Try harder please.

CorporatePiggy on May 17, 2012 at 9:28 PM

I sense you’re trying to make a point.

Try harder please.

CorporatePiggy on May 17, 2012 at 9:28 PM

Indeed. Thick heads require more effort to get points through.

MelonCollie on May 17, 2012 at 9:31 PM

Just say what informs your glib comments.

The marine barracks bombing in 1983 was…

(fill in the blanks)

CorporatePiggy on May 17, 2012 at 9:37 PM

I don’t know if the Israelis will find it reassuring

I think they will find it clumsy, and patently political.

As in:

He is attempting to “buy” the Jewish vote. SC.Charlie on May 17, 2012 at 8:25 PM

But for sure Netanyahu knows:

Obama will do whatever he has to to get re-elected. If starting WWIII is it, no problem.

JellyToast on May 17, 2012 at 7:54 PM

It will be interesting to see if there is a response by Israel on this.

smellthecoffee on May 17, 2012 at 10:54 PM

This will really make Obama look like some kind of amateur-hour idiot. Does anyone really believe this, after all 3-plus years of “soft/smart power”? The man of a thousand apologies is now going to start kicking a$$ and taking names? Puleese. Richard Simmons with a black belt. Stop it.

smellthecoffee on May 17, 2012 at 10:58 PM

Obama is shuffling toward aggressive war on Iran. The motive is to buy neocon support.

I don’t think he wants to go all the way, I think he wants to do the least that will win him support for his re-election.

Still, this is warmongering for political pay. Like his gay marriage for gay policy, it’s irresponsible.

“It’s important not to go all “Pat Buchanan” about it…”

No it’s not.

This is an excellent time to heed voices that warn of the dangers of aggression and urge a more cautious and restricted understanding of the American interest.

David Blue on May 18, 2012 at 5:02 AM

Like his gay marriage for pay policy, it’s irresponsible.

David Blue on May 18, 2012 at 5:04 AM

I surely hope Bibi is wise enough not to trust the Øbamanation on anything important. Plan for the worst from this regime, and row your own boat, Bibi.

petefrt on May 18, 2012 at 7:01 AM

Israel will ensure its own safety. Bibi has foregone elections and forged a unity government with the opposition parties. The Israelis are united and on a war footing. With or without help or treachery from the US, the Israelis are ready for what comes or what they need to do.

MJBrutus on May 18, 2012 at 7:10 AM

I just saw Romney’s Day One ad. It was a great start!

What would Romney do on day 1?

He would approve Keystone.
He would introduce tax cuts and reforms to encourage growth.
He would introduce legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare with common sense health care reform.

It’s a positive message, introducing his agenda, providing relief from oppression from the moment he takes office. I can’t wait for Jan 20!!!

MJBrutus on May 18, 2012 at 7:26 AM

What this pandering jackass means is “Hey American Jews, pretending to love Israel here, remember us on election day, OK?”!

And the vast majority of silly American Jews will gladly follow Obama over the cliff.

Just plain tragic from every angle!

insidiator on May 18, 2012 at 8:16 AM

This may be an attempt to goad Romney into staking a position. If Romney says, heck yes, I support bombing those Iranians, the ambassador will release a statement saying that he misspoke, or that his remarks were mistranslated from the Hebrew. The commedia will then go to work bashing Romney as an irresponsible war monger, while Obama gives a major speech on the importance of diplomacy.

If Romney says, hey war is not the answer we need to give diplomacy a chance, he alienates a significant number of Jewish voters and the hawks in his own party.

My suggestion for Romney on this one: no comment.

Of course, Hillary Clinton might have leaked this to make Obama look bad. Wouldn’t put it past the old girl now.

Mr. Arkadin on May 18, 2012 at 10:04 AM