Monday, March 5, 2012

What Israel Really Wants

BLITZER'S BLOG: What Israel Really Wants I’m skeptical that the Israelis are getting ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. In the end, they might do it. But I suspect they are not ready to do so anytime soon.
That’s because they are talking so much about it. If they were really ready to move their F-15s and F-16s and their submarine-launched missiles against targets in Iran, they would be a lot more quiet.
Two historic notes: When the Israelis bombed Syria’s nuclear facility in 2007, they just did it. They didn’t discuss it openly in advance. Few folks even knew that Syria was building such a facility.
The same was the case back in 1981 when the Israelis destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Iraq. They just did it without discussing it in advance.
If the Israelis were really getting ready to strike Iran’s nuclear sites, why would they be giving such advance notice to the Iranians to prepare their air-defense systems?
So that raises this question: Why are the Israelis talking about the military option so publicly right now?
I suspect all the talk is designed to put great pressure on the U.S. and the international community to toughen sanctions against Iran dramatically, including an effective halt to Iranian oil exports, which finance the regime.
That’s why the international community recently sanctioned Iran’s Central Bank, which handles oil export financial transactions.
The Israelis probably have one more objective.
If the sanctions don’t result in U.N. nuclear inspectors coming back in and the Iranians backing down, I suspect all the tough talk from the Israelis is also designed to pressure the Obama administration to initiate the military option, instead of Israel. The U.S. military capability – for such a mission - is much better than Israel’s. The American bunker-busting bombs are a lot more powerful.
If, in the end, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak concludes that the Israelis, themselves, need to strike, they probably would rather do it during this U.S. presidential election year than wait until 2013. The domestic political pressure on President Obama to side with Israel this year will be intense.
Having said all that, here’s one final note. It’s well-known that there’s no love lost between Netanyahu and Obama, and that was evident today in both their body language and the way they addressed each other so formally. But despite that, the military-to-military relationship and intelligence-to-intelligence relationship between the U.S. and Israel are stronger than they've ever been.

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