Israel is Sabre-Rattling Again – U.S. Defense Secretary Joins In

On Sunday (April 21), as America’s new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was due to arrive in Israel for high-level talks, word emerged of major arms sales to the Middle East approved by the Obama Administration.  The framework of the sales is the traditional U.S. policy of ensuring that Israel has the QME — a “Qualitative Military Edge” over all of its neighbors.

Defense Secretary Hagel at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem (official Pentagon photo)

Thus the sale includes advanced radar for fighter aircraft and aerial refueling planes for long-range missions — sparking speculation that Washington is not strongly discouraging the notion of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In a copyrighted report, the Associated Press notes:

The officials said the United States will sell to Israel an undisclosed number of KC-135 aerial refueling planes and V-22 Osprey aircraft, the tilt-rotor hybrid that can take off and land like a helicopter and then fly like an airplane, as well as precision-guided missiles and advanced radar for Israeli fighter aircraft. It would be the first sale of the V-22 to a foreign nation.

In Israel, officials said the U.S. offer is meant to ensure Israel’s military edge in the region, in light of arms sales the U.S. is advancing in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The weaponry is not expected to arrive in Israel for at least two years.

On Sunday in Israel, Defense Secretary Hagel called the planned arms delivery a “message” to Iran and its ambitions.

Before Hagel was confirmed as Leon Panetta’s replacement this year, some pro-Israel political activists in the United States had branded Hagel an unfair critic — and perhaps even an unsympathetic opponent — of Israel.  There was no sign of this in his remarks in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Meantime — even though President Barack Obama and his new Secretary of State John Kerry were in Israel recently, reassuring Israelis that the United States will ensure that Iran never builds a nuclear bomb, Israel’s prime minister is sounding impatient, worried, and perhaps leaning toward military action against Iran.

Netanyahu, in BBC interview, 18 April 2013

An in-depth interview on the BBC with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was visiting London to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, found him warning that Iran is moving rapidly toward the “red line” that he drew at the United Nations in New York last autumn: 250 kilograms of enriched uranium which, he says, could rapidly be turned into weapons-grade material to build a nuclear bomb.

Again skeptical of the negotiations that the U.S. and partners (in the P5+1 group of nations) plan to continue with Iran, Netanyahu said only a “military threat” has a chance of persuading the Iranians to stop their nuclear enrichment.

The New York Times is also highlighting renewed Israeli threats to strike at Iran — unilaterally, without U.S. involvement.

It has to be assumed that covert activities by U.S. and Israeli espionage agencies, aimed at closely monitoring the nuclear work inside Iran and probably gathering information on possible targets, continue — even though nothing in public is being said about it by the American and Israeli governments.

April 21, 2013

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