Saturday, January 10, 2009

US Rejected Israeli Request to Attack Iran--Thrice




So it would seem in the question of which set of neocons are more sane--those in Tel Aviv or the ones on Pennsylvania Ave--the latter has won out. The NY Times is reporting that in at least three known incidents, the Bush administration denied Israeli pleas to launch a military attack on Iran. More below.


According to a NY Times article, "President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex." As US officials tell it, the Israelis--lacking the US weapons needed to attack Iran's underground complexes--"backed off their plans, at least temporarily." What was it then that stopped the US from agreeing to the Israeli plans? It seems, in a rare bit of good sense and judgment, the Bush administration actually decided that Israel's plan would be--*reckless.*

As cited by the Times,

The interviews also indicate that Mr. Bush was convinced by top administration officials, led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that any overt attack on Iran would probably prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran’s nuclear effort further out of view. Mr. Bush and his aides also discussed the possibility that an airstrike could ignite a broad Middle East war in which America’s 140,000 troops in Iraq would inevitably become involved.


More interesting, it turns out that one of the key reasons the Bush administration began backing away from any outright attack on Iran had to do with that pesky NIE report released in Dec. 2007. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, Iran had in fact stopped its attempts at building a nuclear bomb as far back as 2003.

Officials stated that "the Israelis responded angrily and rebutted the American report," providing their own evidence of Iran working on a nuclear weapon. The Bush administration reacted to their own NIE report with similar scoffing. Secretary Robert Gates, the very one kept on by the Obama administration, was "highly critical" of the NIE report. Gates stated the NIE had "presented the evidence poorly, underemphasizing the importance of Iran’s enrichment activity and overemphasizing the suspension of a weapons-design effort that could easily be turned back on." In other words, Gates was laying the ground for the ideology of pre-emption--in which intelligence should be used to predict worst case scenarios rather than current reality. Nevertheless, the much ballyhooed NIE still seemed to be enough to put a speed bump in any Iran attack plans.

The undaunted Israelis however, intent on remaining the only undeclared nuclear power in the neighborhood, was insistent however on attacking Iran. On two occassions in early 2008, they made requests for weapons and other aid from the US in order to strike Iran. And, in what was called "alarming" to US officials, they wanted to do it via Iraq.

In an unmitigated bit of chutzpah, the Israelis asked the US to allow its bombing run on Iran to take place by overflights through Iraq. "Mr. Bush deflected the first two requests, pushing the issue off," the NY Times said, citing a US official, "but 'we said 'hell no’ to the overflights." Concerned that the uproar in Iraq over such a military operation could turn the country into a cauldron of discontent, the Bush administration rebuffed the Israelis. Disagreement over Iran even led some to worry that tensions could arise between the two allies.

As a White House official told the Times, Israeli intentions on striking Iran via Iraq "really spooked a lot of people." White House officials openly fretted that the Israelis might fly over Iraq without American permission. Some pondered whether American military would be ordered to shoot them down or be accused of being complicit in an attack on Iran.

In order to pacify the Israelis, the Times states the US settled on starting up a covert operation meant to deter Iranian attempts at nuclear enrichment. As stated by the Times, this operation, mostly involving sabotage, is "aimed at the entire industrial infrastructure that supports the Iranian nuclear program."

Thus far the Israelis have determined that without US help they cannot carry out an attack on Iran. However, as the Israelis press a popular "war" in Gaza and flex their muscle, whether the next administration can keep the most powerful military in the Middle East from sparking a regional conflict remains to be seen.





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