Latest Signal: Israel, U.S. On Same Page Re Iran Nuclear Progress

By Dan Raviv

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak today made a pointed effort of clarifying why — and how — Israel might be moving toward a fateful decision: to use its air force for a very challenging and risky mission, to damage or destroy nuclear facilities in Iran.

barak, spies against armageddon, israel spy, covert operationsOn Israel Radio, in Hebrew, he was asked about a report in the Haaretz newspaper that President Obama has received a new National Intelligence Estimate that tells of rapid progress, recently, by Iran toward building nuclear weapons.

Barak did not confirm that Obama has a formal NIE from America’s intelligence community, but here is what Barak did say:
“I know more than I can talk about on the air … There is apparently a report by American intelligence agencies … I don’t know if it’s under the title NIE … or under another title … which is making the rounds of high offices. As far as we know, it comes very close to our own estimate, I would say, as opposed to earlier American estimates. It transforms the Iranian situation to an even more urgent one, and it is even less likely that we will know every development in time on the Iranian nuclear program.”

That last remark is somewhat surprising, as Israeli intelligence sources had been expressing confidence — for the past year and more — that if Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, made a decision to move quickly toward creation of a nuclear bomb, Israeli intelligence would very quickly know about it.

Barak continued:  “I don’t think you can attach this report to one step or another … I think already for many months there has been understanding of what the Iranians are trying to do. …  All of us … including the American president … are prepared to stop Iran from going nuclear, and all the options remain on the table … And when we say that, we mean it … When the Americans say it, we believe that they also mean it …”

Political circles in Jerusalem and in Washington have been buzzing about whether Obama could, in effect, have veto power over an Israeli decision to attack Iran.  He is reported to have asked the Israelis to delay any attack until at least after America’s Election Day on November 6.

Barak today said: “The government of Israel by itself will make decisions about its security and its future. … We are going to have to make decisions that are not simple.”

To naysay complaints, within Israel, that Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plan to make an attack decision on their own, Barak said that the cabinet would be part of the decision.  He may have been referring to the inner core of ministers often called the Security Cabinet, as the full cabinet of several dozen men and women is an unwieldy coalition of opinionated political-party representatives.

When might Israel’s leaders feel they have to make a decision to attack — in effect, to go to war, over their suspicions and intelligence findings that Iran is moving rapidly toward building a nuclear bomb?   Netanyahu and Barak have recently tried to make it seem that they are on a hair-trigger.  War could come at any time.  But perhaps the principal intention remains grabbing the United States government’s attention, so that Israel will get better bunker-buster bombs and other equipment, including defensive systems to protect the Jewish state from incoming missiles — and Israel still wants America’s president, whether that is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney next year, to be the one who uses the U.S.’s armed might to smash Iran’s nuclear program.

August 9, 2012

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