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Netanyahu Backs Off on Iran

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Enter the real world. Both the U.S. and Israeli military are dead set against the disaster that war with Iran would bring. And both have made that quite plain to Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials who have been lusting to strike Iran within the next couple of weeks; that is, before they are faced with the possibility of a second-term American president better able to put higher priority on the strategic needs of U.S. than those of Israel.

Most striking to me was the gratuitous comment by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey who said publicly on Aug. 30, "I don't want to be complicit if they [the Israelis] choose to do it [attack Iran]."

President Obama's refusal to meet with Netanyahu in New York this week was another sign the bilateral relationship was fraying, as were repeated remarks by senior administration officials rejecting Netanyahu's insistence that the U.S. draw a red line to his specifications.

The net effect of all this, supplemented by repeated private warnings, apparently persuaded top Israeli leaders that there was real doubt that the U.S. would knee-jerkily jump in with military support, were Israel to become involved in armed hostilities with Iran.

Of at least equal importance, the bombing (so to speak) of Mitt Romney's campaign for president may have persuaded the Israelis that he is a likely loser in November, no matter what Israel might attempt to do in the interim; that they are doomed to deal with a second-term Obama; and that they had better start making the best of it, rather than drive the political wedge still deeper.

Clearly, Netanyahu's bullying of recent weeks has backfired. It apparently has now run its course.

Bilateral Washington-Tel Aviv tensions can be expected to abate. Netanyahu's insistence that "what I have said today will help ensure that this common goal [of stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program] is achieved"  amounts to gilding the lily.

The core problem for Netanyahu and some American neocons who are still eager for violent "regime change" in Iran is that intelligence analysts of both countries have not been able to find persuasive evidence that Iran has renewed the work on a nuclear warhead, a project that Tehran terminated in late 2003. Unlike the cave-in at CIA in 2002, when Vice President Dick Cheney demanded evidence of Iraqi WMD, the intelligence analysts have not crumbled this time.

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As for uranium enrichment to weapons-level, unbiased specialists insist that Iran would have to kick out the U.N. inspectors before attempting to do this. There are also renewed signals from Iran that it is prepared to abandon uranium enrichment to 20 percent -- well below weapons grade -- in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

And, at times of unusual candor, even biased Israeli officials have accepted the intelligence rejecting the notion that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. Here is none other than Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in an interview with Israeli Army Radio on January 18, 2012:

Interviewer: Is it Israel's judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?

Barak: ... confusion stems from the fact that people ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now ... in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible.  Apparently that is not the case. ...

Interviewer: How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?

Barak: I don't know; one has to estimate. ... Some say a year, others say 18 months. It doesn't really matter. To do that, Iran would have to announce it is leaving the [UN International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection regime and stop responding to IAEA's criticism, etc.

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Why haven't they [the Iranians] done that? Because they realize that ... when it became clear to everyone that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, this would constitute definite proof that time is actually running out. This could generate either harsher sanctions or other action against them. They do not want that.

There you have it from the Israeli Defense Minister, no peacenik he.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 

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... by Kyle McDermott on Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 8:59:07 PM
How many nuclear weapons does Israel posses, and h... by Paul Repstock on Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 9:35:50 AM
The US only complains about the nuclear capabiliti... by Marta B on Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 5:11:51 PM
I have nightmares about Obama ordering a strike on... by Marta B on Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 4:20:58 AM
>>" We thus arrive at a universal, praxeol... by Paul Repstock on Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 10:23:52 AM
I keep asking this question and nobody seems to be... by Sister Begonia on Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 1:58:58 PM
   MEMOTo my former adversaries BORIS AN... by Tom James on Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 8:38:51 AM