Perhaps the words of Joint Chief of Staff, Martin Dempsey, claiming to “not being complicit with an Israeli attack on Iran,” reflect a recent vein by various Americans—not to be dragged by Israel into what they believe to be a “premature” military conflict with Iran.
The US administration does not see the same level of urgency—concerning Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons—as does Israel. “There is still time,” says US secretary of defense Leon Panetta. ”Action can be taken once we know that Iran has made the decision to build a nuclear weapon.”
Apparently, Mr. Panetta has high confidence in the ability of American intelligence to see, hear and decipher Iran’s intentions, plans and actions. "We know generally what they're up to. And so we keep a close track on them," he asserted.
Following Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent call for setting a "clear red line" that would justify using military force should Iran try to defy it, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg Radio that the US administration is not prepared to commit to “drawing red lines. We’re not setting deadlines."
Clearly, there is an open disagreement between the US Administration and Israeli Prime Minister concerning urgency of military action against Iran.
At the same time, The Associated Press has reported that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has received new and significant intelligence from Israel, the US and at least two other western countries, that Iran has been working ceaselessly for the past three years, advancing their ability to fabricate nuclear weapons by way of calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models.
Time and again, throughout history, it has been shown that in spite of solid evidence pointing to an enemy’s preparation for military aggression, the object of that aggression failed to properly decipher the raw intelligence because the people in charge of national security refused to accept the proper, obvious conclusion. They were optimists rather than realists; they stuck religiously to their concepts; they wanted to believe that their enemy/adversary would not dare resorting to force against them either because this adversary would not be willing to risk a potentially devastating counter attack, or the adversary would not violate an assumed or a formal indenture.
Josef Stalin fell into this mode before Barbarossa—Hitler’s campaign against the Soviet Union; the US failed to ready itself before Pearl Harbor; Israeli leadership and its intelligence chief perceived very low probability of a coordinated attack by Egypt and Syria before the 1973 Yom Kippur war, notwithstanding a mountain of solid intelligence pointing at unmistakable preparations for the most devastating attack ever on the Jewish state; and the US failed to take seriously al-Qaeda’s warnings, threats and even intelligence pointing to an imminent attack before 9/11.
It is understandable why US President Barack Obama does not want to escalate tensions with Iran less than two months before elections. His red lines do not coincide with Israeli prime minister's. While Netanyahu sits atop a boiling pot, Obama’s loveseat is better insulated; the heat underneath has not yet passed through and burn the concept that there is no urgency, that there is still plenty of time before D-Day. However, once the insulation below the love seat has been depleted, the fire underneath will burst through the lining in an explosion.
Nonetheless, the misguided concept is not the only issue. The real problem facing the American administration is the fact that the Israeli government has lost trust in Obama’s willingness to employ his military for the purpose of stopping Iran’s drive toward nuclear status. This loss of trust may set off an independent Israeli military action against Iran. Israel’s military options are much more limited in comparison to the US. Consequently, an Israeli attack on Iran may not be as thorough, and as devastating as if the Americans had taken the leading role.
Iran’s retaliation capabilities following a solo Israeli attack may, in all likelihood, still be effective, and the Revolutionary Guards will retaliate by attacking American interests around the Persian Gulf, dragging the US into a war that Obama does not want to fight now.
As a rule, at times of war, the side initiating the hostilities has a tremendous advantage. And so, if the US is dragged into a war with Iran—a war it did not initiate or was not ready for—chances are that the cost to the US and to the rest of the world’s economy would be significantly higher and longer-lasting than if the US had attacked first.
Avoiding a scenario where the US would be absorbing a Pearl Harbor-type blow before launching a retaliatory response, the Obama Administration must gain the Israeli government’s trust that the US will definitely use force once Iran crosses a US-Israeli agreed upon red line. Public statements such as the ones by Martin Dempsy, Leon Panetta, or Hillary Clinton can only undermine Israeli trust in the US president’s intentions vis-à-vis curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, and bring about an independent Israeli initiative.
President Obama must demonstrate and prove his resolve to the Israeli government. He must reassure Israel that he is committed to drawing red lines. He must convince Netanyahu that the US is determined to ending Iran’s race toward nuclear status even after the US elections in November. President Obama must restrain his minions, his cabinet secretaries and his military chiefs, instructing them to refrain from issuing public statements making Israeli leaders lose faith in his determination’s intent to prevent a nuclear Iran while boosting Iran’s self-confidence at the same time.
Words (or lack of words) alone will not do the convincing. President Obama must demonstrate his resolve by coordinating and sharing attack plans with the Israeli government; he must build up a military machine in position to strike Iran at the critical moment; he must supplement Israel with any possible means for repelling political and military attempts to retaliate against the Jewish state in the event of an American pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear weapon factories.
President Obama should make clear to the American people that a nuclear Iran poses a mortal danger to the US and not just to Israel or to its Arab neighbors. He must convince the American public and the people in his own administration that his aggressive approach to Iran’s nuclear ambitions is not driven by his love (or lack of it) for Israel, but rather by his concern to the security of his own country.
Avi Perry is currently a talk show host at Paltalk News Network (PNN). He served as an intelligence expert for the Israeli government and was a professor at Northwestern University. He was a VP at NMS Communications, a Bell Laboratories distinguished staff member and manager, and a delegate of the US and Lucent Technologies to UN International Standards body. He is the author of Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks, and more recently--72 Virgins--a thriller. For more information, visit www.aviperry.org.