U.S. intelligence analysts watching for indicators of Israeli military action recently reported that there are signs the Jewish state plans an attack against Iran in October.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, is preparing to provide logistical support for a military strike but is pressing Israel to delay any action until the administration’s policy of sanctions have had more time to work, and that any attack would be put off until after the November presidential election…
Any Israeli military attack is expected to be carried out with little or no warning, which has meant stepped up monitoring of Israel by U.S. intelligence agencies for all indicators of an impending attack.
Israel’s prime minister on Sunday urged the international community to get tougher against Iran, saying that without a “clear red line,” Tehran will not halt its nuclear program…
“The [new UN] report confirms what I have been saying for a long time – the international sanctions are burdening Iran’s economy, but they are not delaying the development of the Iranian nuclear program,” Netanyahu said.
Iran dramatically increased its production of a more enriched form of uranium in recent months, U.N. inspectors reported Thursday, suggesting that the country’s nuclear facilities were ramping up their output even as Iran’s leaders engaged in international negotiations on possible curbs to its nuclear program…
The report, based on routine monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities, documented a sizable jump in Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a level that can be converted relatively easily to the more highly enriched uranium needed for weapons. The report said Iran has 255 pounds of uranium enriched at 20 percent, up from 159 pounds in May.
But the IAEA also found that Iran had converted much of the new material to metal form for use in a nuclear research reactor. Once the conversion has taken place, the uranium can’t be further enriched to weapons-grade material, Obama administration officials said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu got into a diplomatic shouting match with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro over US President Barack Obama’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program, saying “time has run out” for diplomacy, Yediot Aharonot cited a source as saying on Friday…
A source that participated in the meeting said that a particularly angry and stressed Netanyahu began a tirade against the US president, attacking him for not doing enough on Iran. “Instead of pressuring Iran in an effective way, Obama and his people are pressuring us not to attack the nuclear facilities,” the source quoted Netanyahu as saying…
The American ambassador is said to have responded politely but firmly, telling Netanyahu that he was distorting Obama’s position. Obama promised not to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, he explained, and left all options on the table, including military options.
Seven months ago, Israel and the United States postponed a massive joint military exercise that was originally set to go forward just as concerns were brimming that Israel would launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The exercise was rescheduled for late October, and appears likely to go forward on the cusp of the U.S. presidential election. But it won’t be nearly the same exercise. Well-placed sources in both countries have told TIME that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation, slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise.
“Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you,’” a senior Israeli military official tells TIME…
In the current political context, the U.S. logic is transparent, says Israeli analyst Efraim Inbar. “I think they don’t want to insinuate that they are preparing something together with the Israelis against Iran – that’s the message,” says Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “Trust? We don’t trust them. They don’t trust us. All these liberal notions! Even a liberal president like Obama knows better.”
A senior [Israeli] government official on Saturday characterized as “strange” a recent statement by US military chief Gen. Martin Dempsey that he would not want to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran.
“Dempsey’s comments are strange in that they would seem to contradict the continual statements from the White House that the security and defense cooperation between Israel and the US has never been as close,” the senior official said…
Amid the disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington over whether Iran needed to be stopped before it had acquired all components for a bomb (Israel’s position), or only once it started putting the bomb together, [Israeli intel chief Dan] Meridor said US President Barack Obama’s statement that he was committed to preventing Iran from getting a bomb, and would not be satisfied by containment of a nuclear Iran, needed to be taken seriously.
Israel’s vice prime minister Moshe Yaalon said on Friday he feared Iran did not believe it faced a real military threat from the outside world because of mixed messages from foreign powers.
“We have an exchange of views, including with our friends in the United States, who in our opinion, are in part responsible for this feeling in Iran,” he told Israel’s 100FM radio station.
“There are many cracks in the ring closing tighter on Iran. We criticize this,” he said, also singling out U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for travelling to Tehran this week.
“There is definitely a narrative in the media right now – I’d say an overheated one – about tension between the US and Israel over Iran,” [U.S. ambassador Dan] Shapiro said, adding that this narrative does not “reflect the very close coordination and very intense work we’ve done together to address an issue that we perceive the same way, which is the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Asked why the US did not give the Iranians a clear ultimatum – stop the nuclear program “or else” – Shapiro replied: “I think there is no mistaking what the US is prepared to do.” Shapiro said that Obama and Netanyahu, as well as their “teams,” speak regularly, and that the relationship “at the top” is “just what it needs to be.”
Mr. Dayan’s assessment seems to buttress the theory that the collective saber rattling is part of a campaign to pressure the Obama administration and the international community, rather than an indication of the imminence of an Israeli strike. Many analysts here believe that hawkish statements by Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak this spring led to the harsher sanctions now in place, and that this is essentially Round 2…
While Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak have been criticized as “messianic” in their thinking on the Iranian nuclear issue and are widely viewed as ready, if not eager, to take military action to stop it, Mr. Dayan said they would prefer that the United States led any attack, even if that meant waiting until after the November presidential election. But “they have to make the decision whether to strike or not before November,” he said, so they need to hear from Mr. Obama “in the coming two weeks, in the coming month.”
Almost four years into their partnership, the two most important players — Bibi and Barack — still seem out of whack with one another both personally and on some key policy issues.
What’s happening here? I’ve got a pretty simple diagnosis: Netanyahu’s policies and suspicions about American intentions have combined with Obama’s seemingly emotionless view of Israel to spell trouble. The absence of a common enterprise makes matters worse.
The Iranian challenge might still provide a grand reunion between the two parties. But if history is any guide, serious clashes between Israeli prime ministers and American presidents are not resolved by reconciliation but by the departure of one or the other. That may mean we’re in for an extended period of turbulence: I’m betting that in this case, both Bibi and Barack may be around for the long haul.