“Don’t do it.” That is the message American officials, from President Obama on down, are delivering to their Israeli counterparts in the hope of dissuading the Jewish State from taking a fateful step: attacking Iran to prevent the mullahs’ imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons.
This week, the nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, will visit Israel to convey the same message in person. If recent reports of other U.S. demarches are any guide, the General will deliver an insistent warning that Israel must give sanctions more time to work and refrain from acting unilaterally.
Such warnings have become more shrill as evidence accumulates that Israel is getting ready to move beyond what is widely believed to be a series of successful – but insufficient – covert actions against the Iranian nuclear program, missile forces and associated personnel.
Some U.S. officials reportedly think the Israelis are just posturing. As one put it, they are playing out a “hold me back” gambit – perhaps hoping the Americans will do the job themselves, or at least to be rewarded for their restraint.
Others point, however, to evidence that the Israelis are concealing key military movements from our intelligence assets as an indicator that they are going for it – and want to keep us from interfering. At a minimum, Jerusalem would have to worry that an American administration that is holding secret negotiations with Tehran in Turkey at the level of Deputy Secretary of State William Burns would seek to curry favor with the mullahs by compromising any information it obtains about Israel’s intentions.
At the end of the day, the fundamental difference between the U.S. and Israel is that the Israelis have laid down “red lines” with respect to the Iranian nuclear enterprise. One of them was crossed two weeks ago when the Iranians announced that they had started enriching uranium in a hardened, and heavily defended, underground facility near the city of Qom. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency – an organization that, under its previous management, incessantly obscured the true weapons purpose and steady progress of the Iranian nuclear program – views this step as ominous.
To be sure, the United States says it has red lines, too. It was only last week that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta pronounced two: Iran would not be allowed either to acquire nuclear arms or to close the world’s energy pipeline that flows through the entrance to the Persian Gulf: the Strait of Hormuz.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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