Will Israel Strike Before America’s Election Campaign is Over? No Absolute Guarantees, But…..

By Yossi Melman
Here in Tel Aviv, I was able to learn what General David Petraeus — now the Director of the CIA — said about Israel’s intentions in the nuclear stand-off with Iran.

yossi melman, israel spy, spies against armageddonGeneral Petraeus recently briefed a limited group of American journalists and told them that, according to the CIA’s assessment, Israel will not attack Iran “anytime soon.” He also told them that this assessment is based on a conversation, last March, between President Barack Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to the CIA Director, Netanyahu was persuaded in the private talks that the American president and his administration are determined to prevent Iran from having nuclear arms.

Until that meeting, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak repeatedly were beating the war drums — creating the impression that Israel would attack Iran unless the United States firmly promised to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.  A special concern was Barak’s phrase, “the zone of immunity,” a phrase the Iranians might reach where their uranium enrichment, stockpiles, or weapons development were so deeply buried in the ground that no Israeli airstrike could be relied upon to destroy Iran’s capabilities.

From an Israeli perspective, there are many reasons to conclude that Israel is in no rush to launch a military strike on Iran.   The apparent request from President Obama — that Israel wait, at least, until after Election Day on November 6, 2012–would be an important factor in Israel’s consideration of what to do.  Israeli leaders would be highly unlikely to make an absolute guarantee to wait until after November 6, but Obama’s strong words about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran helped to persuade Netanyahu and Barak to hold their fire.

American officials firmly say that there still is time to toughen sanctions and see how they affect Iran’s government.  Israeli leaders are less confident in the efficacity of sanctions, but covert action — the work done by spies, agents, infiltrators, and assassins — almost surely continues.  In our forthcoming book Spies Against Armageddon, we have sought to shed light on what, how, and why Israel’s secret agencies do what they do.  Innovative approaches abound.  That does not eliminate the possibility of Israel’s air force going into action against Iran, but there are many paths to action still cloaked in secrecy.

June 12, 2012

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