New Netanyahu Saber-Rattling on Iran — Obama Administration Believes It

Even though the United States and Israel are allies, the relatively tiny partner feels a need to keep the American behemoth guessing. When Israel threatens to bomb Iran to stop its nuclear program, is Israel bluffing?

At the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Saturday, the recently retired general who was in charge of the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) was asked if he thought Israel would attack Iran if a decision by Iran’s Supreme Leader to “break out” and manufacture a nuclear bomb quickly was detected by Western intelligence agencies.

Gen. Jim Mattis, USMC


I have no doubt Israel would attack,” said the retired Marine general, Jim Mattis.

And would the United States join the Israelis in attacking Iranian facilities?  Mattis replied: “I don’t know. We make our own decisions. And whether we’d know in advance isn’t certain.”

Mattis — known by the “call sign” or nom de guerre Chaos — said diplomacy is preferable to violence. So, when asked about the “moderate” who has been elected president in Iran, Hassan Rouhani, Mattis said: “We should engage with him to walk the nuclear weapons program back. And it is a weapons program.”

When might the Iranians have a nuclear bomb? “I’d say one year, if they chose to do it.” But Mattis expressed doubt that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has made that decision.

Notably disagreeing with Israeli intelligence analysts, who have expressed high confidence that they will know — if and when Khamenei makes a fateful decision to “break out” to build a bomb — Mattis said: “If he does decide, I’m not sure the U.S. would know right away.”

No one, not even the U.S. military, can destroy “the whole program,” Mattis added. “Much of it would be destroying entrances of underground facilities, but those could be re-0pened “with a good backhoe.” Iran’s nuclear work would be delayed by one to 18 months “but the question is what do you do with the delay? Diplomacy?”

“The military can buy the diplomats some time. But the military can’t solve it.”

Asked how high Iranian activities loomed on his list of priorities when commanding CENTCOM, Mattis replied that every day he would wake up and ask his briefers what was new on three subjects: “Iran, Iran, and Iran.”

He is aware of a relatively new — but strong — area of concern: Iran’s attempts to develop offensive capabilities in cyberwarfare.  Mattis said Iran’s cyber efforts are “like children balancing light bulbs filled with nitroglycerin.” One day, he said, they’ll drop one — and something like the London stock exchange will be knocked out.

Manssor Arbabsiar, Iranian agent who tried to set up a bombing

Mattis said the Obama Administration made a mistake by failing to set clear limits on Iranian activities, after a plot by Iran to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington was detected. Mattis said Iranian agents — under the comand of “the highest levels in Tehran” — would have blown up Cafe Milano in the Georgetown neighborhood of DC. Their one mistake, he said, was hiring a Mexican drug gang to set up the assassination — and a gang member was an informant of America’s Drug Enforcement Administration.

That was in October 2011. In May of this year, an Iranian-American named Manssor Arbabsiar was sentenced to 25 years in prison after admitting that he was planning that attack in America’s capital city.

July 21, 2013

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