If you only read the Israeli English language press from earlier today you’d get an entirely skewed idea of Leon Panetta’s visit to Israel and his consultations with Ehud Barak. The Haaretz story says Panetta warned Israel against pursuing policies regarding Iran that were not “coordinated” with its international allies. Sheesh, some tough statement, right? If that was all that was said, the F-16s would be fueled by now and ready for takeoff.
Later in the day, the language of the stories seemed to have been toughened considerably. The Hebrew language stories are considerably more intense. The coverage also adds a previously unheard from actor in this drama, Meir Dagan. Anyone who’s read this blog over the past few months knows the astonishing facts of Dagan’s bold and unprecedented public warning against an Israeli attack on Iran. Today, the former Mossad chief continued his offensive. The Hebrew headline of Amos Harel’s Haaretz story is:
Dagan Seeks to Restrain Netanyahu and Barak:
Iran Still Far from Nuclear Weapon
Harel writes that Panetta came to Israel with a single message: that Washington opposes an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Dagan too delivered a timely lecture the same day at Tel Aviv University, in which he said that:
“The military option is still far from being the preferred one for Israel. As of now, there are still tools and means available that are far more effective.”
He also said that Iran remained far from the point of no return in its nuclear program. In fact, Dagan asserts that Iran is currently facing one of the most “problematic periods” in its history since the 1979 revolution. The radical camp among the clerics is embroiled in internal difficulties. Dagan added that while Israel’s military status is especially good due to the fact that there is no immediate war threat, its strategic position was “the most grave in the nation’s history.” For this, he lays the blame squarely at the feet of Bibi Netanyahu:
I disagree with many of the decisions made by our side which contributed to this predicament.
He was undoubtedly referring to the deterioration of Israel’s relations with Turkey and Egypt, among others.
Walla’s coverage of Dagan’s speech notes that he disagreed with recent IDF reports that warn of the danger of a multi-front war which would involve the use of WMD. On the contrary, the ex-Mossad director says it is Israel’s own leadership that endangers it. The nation’s political leadership is most likely to damage its legitimacy on the international stage. In other words: we are our own worst enemy.
Haaretz portrays Panetta’s message to the Israelis thus:
His message for Barak, at their second meeting in two weeks, appeared to be simultaneously embrace and restrain: America is standing by Israel, but an uncoordinated Israeli strike on Iran could spark a regional war. The United States will work to defend Israel, but Israel must behave responsibly.
Washington has been worried by statements various senior Israeli officials have made recently that seemed to take an aggressive line on Iran. The issue has taken on new urgency because, in the view of many Western military experts, the window of opportunity for an aerial assault on Iran will close within two months. In normal winter weather conditions, it would be very difficult to carry out such a complex assault.
I’ve consulted with several Middle East observers who’ve told me they believe Israel cannot attack Iran without direct U.S. assistance. Of course, it has received some of that with the delivery of 50 bunker buster bombs that would be necessary to penetrate Iran’s heavily fortified nuclear facilities. But Israel will need even more help including the types of massive air refueling tankers we have, and which it does not have enough of to conduct such a long-range mission. If we assume that Obama opposes such a strike and will not provide the operational support necessary to carry it out, then perhaps what we’re seeing is more saber-rattling by Israel to distract the world from its woes in other quarters like Egypt and Turkey.
And speaking of those refueling tankers, Yediot’s print edition published a profile of the IAF’s first and only female flight engineer which contains tantalizing references to preparations for a mission that likely involves an attack on Iran:
The air crew is now preparing for one of the most complex, sensitive flights that the air force conducts: “Our mission is to refuel war planes to lengthen the distance they can fly.
The article closes with a bit of human interest about the flight engineer, who had just been married:
As she brought her hand in front of one of the jet engines suddenly a ring sparkled. Captain Dana married the boy of her dreams a week before we flew with her. Now, instead of a honeymoon flight, she prepares for a bold, and entirely different flight mission.