Red Light? Green? Amber? Be Careful, but Proceed? — What’s U.S. Signaling to Israel, on a Possible Airstrike on Iran’s Nuclear Program?

Despite pressures on many fronts, Israel’s government is displaying no desire to calm the tensions (להרגיע את הרוחות) with Iran over that country’s continuing nuclear program — still making progress toward potentially building a nuclear bomb, if that is what Iran’s Supreme Leader decides to do.

The Obama Administration sees the likelihood of an approaching clash, and certainly would take Israel’s side rather than Iran’s. But does the U.S. government want “Israel to take care of it”? Do the Americans imagine that the U.S. would escape retaliation, if the Iranians were to choose to respond violently?

Perhaps there is a new version of the option that has floated around in Washington for a long time: learning to live with a nuclear Iran. 

The new version would, in effect, be quite the opposite: Learn to live with the reality that Israel is probably going to “take out” Iran’s nuclear program — or at least will drop bombs and missiles to derail the progress being made toward weapons capability.

We still cannot reliably predict whether Israel will exercise its military option. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is certainly not trying to convince us otherwise.

On Wednesday he declared that since the allegedly “moderate” Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran — just two months ago — Iran has installed another 7,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium. Rouhani was sworn in this week and publicly urged the United States to engage in nuclear talks.

To say the least, Netanyahu doesn’t trust Rouhani — the smiling face of an aggressive and expansionist regime — and is urging the world not to fall for Rouhani’s act. During a meeting with a Republican congressman, James Sensenbrenner, and other “pro-Israel activists” on Wednesday, Netanyahu declared:

Prime Minister Netanyahu

“I know that some place their hopes on Iran’s new president. He knows how to exploit this and yesterday he called for more talks.  Of course he wants more talks.  He wants to talk and talk and talk.  And while everybody is busy talking to him, he’ll be busy enriching uranium. 

“The centrifuges will keep on spinning.  This isn’t a secret.  The new Iranian president boasts that that is his strategy.  He says, ‘I talk and I smile and I enrich uranium’. This is unfortunately going on as we speak.  Iran’s work and quest towards the achievement of atomic weapons not only continues, it continues unabated – it’s actually accelerated. 

“And they’re also pursuing, as was recently reported, an alternative route to the enrichment of uranium, which is the plutonium route, simultaneously.  So the situation unhappily is not getting any better; it’s actually getting worse.  Iran is determined to get the bomb and we must be even more determined to prevent them from getting it.”

That brings us to Amos Yadlin’s assessment. Yadlin, until two years ago, was the commander of Israel’s biggest espionage and assessment agency: Aman, the intelligence branch of the military. He is now director of INSS, a think tank affiliated with Tel Aviv University.

He recently revealed (without naming Netanyahu) that he advised the three prime ministers he served as intelligence chief that the chance that Iran would drop a bomb on Tel Aviv was approximately 5 percent. Only one PM found that unacceptable — “Not on my watch.”

General Yadlin said, more explicitly, that Netanyahu sees the Iranians as the Nazis of the 21st century — intending to destroy the Jewish state — and he sees himself as Churchill.

Amos Yadlin

Yadlin has also said that Israel was not likely to bomb Iran when the President of the United States is strongly against it — flashing a “red light.”

This week, Yadlin is saying that he perceives a change in the traffic signal coming from Washington.

He told Israeli Army Radio (as translated by The Times of Israel): “In 2012 the [Americans’] red light was as red as it can get, the brightest red. But the music I’m hearing lately from Washington says, ‘If this is truly an overriding Israeli security interest, and you think you want to strike’…

“Then the light hasn’t changed to green, I think, but it’s definitely yellow,” Yadlin declared.

 

 

August 7, 2013

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