Did Obama threaten to shoot down Israeli planes if they attacked Iran?

Reports came out overnight about a story which, if true, will be another damaging blow to the US – Israeli relationship. According to “an unnamed Israeli minister” who is quoted in a Kuwait newspaper, a 2014 plan by Israel to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities was scotched, in part, because the United States may have threatened to shoot down their planes if they tried it.

The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday, that US President Barack Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Following Obama’s threat, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reportedly forced to abort the planned Iran attack.

According to Al-Jarida, the Netanyahu government took the decision to strike Iran some time in 2014 soon after Israel had discovered the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel’s back.

The report claimed that an unnamed Israeli minister who has good ties with the US administration revealed the attack plan to Secretary of State John Kerry, and that Obama then threatened to shoot down the Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

It’s not the first time such an idea has been floated. Apparently it’s a plan previously proposed by Mika Brzezinski’s dad.

Former US diplomat Zbigniew Brzezinski, who enthusiastically campaigned for Obama in 2008, called on him to shoot down Israeli planes if they attack Iran. “They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?” said the former national security advisor to former President Jimmy Carter in an interview with the Daily Beast.

“We have to be serious about denying them that right,” he said. “If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a ‘Liberty’ in reverse.’”

Israel mistakenly attacked the American Liberty ship during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Right up front, even though there are multiple outlets talking about this story today, there simply isn’t enough information available to say how much credibility we should lend this report at the moment. It’s apparently sourced from an Israeli news outlet who is quoting a Kuwaiti paper who is quoting a nameless source. I’ve yet to see anyone else with direct knowledge of the alleged events stepping up to verify it.

So how likely is this to be true? There are two sides to that coin to be sure. To begin with, we can draw on the history of this presidency and our degraded relationship with the Israeli Prime Minister. Obama wants peace, if only to have everyone go along to get along so he can get back to his executive amnesty plans and a few more rounds of golf. While the President is gun shy about putting troops anywhere, he’s never been averse to sending out fighter jets to set loose a few missiles. And, while extreme even for him, it’s not beyond the pale to imagine him taking a step like this – even involving an attack on an ally – if he felt he could justify it as a move to prevent a larger war.

By the same token, there are too many factors in place which call this into question. The obvious one which I already noted is the lack of sourcing. But perhaps even more dubious is the timing. Having a story such as this break just as Netanyahu arrives in the United States to talk about the exact same issue – how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program – makes the story suspicious to say the least. If this was one of those “known things” among the intelligence community and the events took place last year, why would everyone have sat on such a juicy item for all this time?

Read through the source material and decide for yourself. I can’t rule it out, but I’m also not ready to jump in and endorse this one as fact yet.