America’s Top General is in Israel — Restraining Israel? Coordinating Moves on Syria and Iran?

By Yossi Melman in Tel Aviv

yossi melman, israel spy, spies against armageddon

Yossi Melman

The United States has dispatched a series of its most senior military officers to Israel, where they have been meeting with counterparts and discussing a range of regional issues. High on all of the agendas is Iran.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has arrived in Tel Aviv as the guest of Israel’s Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz.

[Here is a report on Dempsey’s arrival remarks, posted by the Pentagon; including his saying that the challenges have become “even greater” since he and Gantz last met.]

Dempsey — who has recently been tasked by President Barack Obama to develop military options for American action in Syria — was to meet with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Last week General Mark Welsh, the chief of staff of the US Air Force, was hosted by his counterpart, General Amir Eshel. Welsh also met with Gantz, who directly advises Netanyahu on military matters — including what Israel can do to derail Iran’s nuclear program.

Gen. Martin Dempsey chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The meetings come amid U.S. concerns and media reports that Israel may soon execute a strike on Iran. Officials in Israel have expressed alarm that the American administration seems willing to engage extensively with Iran at a time when Tehran may be on the brink of developing the capability to “break out” and quickly manufacture nuclear weapons.

Hasan Rouhani, Iran’s newly inaugurated president, has been touted by some international experts as a relative moderate who may attempt to open a window to the West.

Netanyahu believes that there is nothing new on the Iranian front and that Rouhani is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who will continue the nuclear policy of his hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Regardless, the course of Iran’s nuclear program is determined by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Netanyahu has, over four years, emphasized that he is willing to unleash the Israeli Air Force to slow Iran’s nuclear drive. In September of last year, from the podium at the UN General Assembly in New York, he drew a literal “red line” across an Iranian bomb. Netanyahu warned that by early Summer 2013, Iran might reach the threshold enabling the country to produce sufficient fissile materials and assemble its first nuclear bombs.

Netanyahu’s red line in New York (Sept. 2012)

After “red lines” and “points of no return” and “decisive years,” there are some analysts who have ridiculed claims that 2014 will be the “crucial year” for Iranian nuclearization.

Yet, according to most indications and experts, 2014 or early 2015 is indeed the time frame in which Iran can achieve its ambition: a secret goal, by the way, which Iran consistently denies.

By then Iran will have mastered three important nuclear crafts. It will operate a nuclear reactor in Arak, which would be capable of producing plutonium. It will have a sufficient number of sophisticated centrifuges, which it could use to enrich weapon-grade uranium.

And it will have the knowledge necessary to fit a nuclear warhead – which could be made of either uranium or plutonium – atop a ballistic missile.

The decision whether to assemble its first nuclear bomb will then be solely Iran’s.

According to senior Israeli officials, the only way to deter Iran is to keep up economic and political pressure — while maintaining a strong, credible, and thus intimidating military option.

The Obama administration, in order to avoid Israeli action against Iran, should be seeking to ratchet up sanctions on Tehran, including by implementing Congressional resolutions aimed at stopping Iranian oil exports.

The U.S. and the European Union will probably negotiate with Iran, and they must do so from a position of strength. Rouhani’s smiles and sweet words should not undermine the West’s resolve.

Sanctions are having an effect. Iranian oil exports recently decreased to a new low of 700,000 barrels per day. A complete halt of  oil exports could force Iran’s leaders (basically, Ayatollah Khamenei) to change their current calculus. They need to be convinced that their choice is between nuclear weapons and a complete economic collapse.

August 12, 2013

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