Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu was about to give a go-ahead to a strike in Iran, but Obama called it off.
Exclusive: Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu was about to give a go-ahead to a strike in Iran, but was pressured to call it off by the US – says IDF Major General (ret.) Giora Eiland, a former Israel National Security Advisor. Eiland was speaking in a closed meeting about two weeks ago, adding that “Israel has the capability to destroy the Iranian nuclear program,” and that the US veto may have been connected to the presidential elections, which at the time were in full swing.
By Rotem Sella
“At that time the Prime Minister thought that we were at the crossroads with regard to the Iranian nuclear program”, said Eiland in a meeting on August 19th, adding: “Israel does not require US approval for its military actions – unless the US unequivocally demands that we refrain from a particular action”. Eiland further said that such a demand was in fact raised in a meeting between Netanyahu and US officials, who made it clear that the planned strike was out of the question – and the strike was aborted as a result.
Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear program proceeded apace. Eiland says that now Israel is yet again facing the same difficult dilemma. “As time passed, we are again finding ourselves at the same crossroads – only with less time, and between a rock and a hard place”, said Eiland. “A lack of decision is a dramatic decision in and of itself”.
Speaking to us, Eiland confirmed the points he made earlier: “There are many areas where Israel is free to act independently: building in Jerusalem, striking in Gaza and other areas in our region, where we do not need an approval from the US – even when they do not like it. But when it comes to issues that affect the broader American interests, we cannot act contrary to their considerations”. Eiland confirmed that at the time Netanyahu had his mind set on an early strike in Iran.
According to Eiland, the best scenario for Israel would be for the US to take action instead. “The lack of enthusiasm in the US regarding the strike in Syria signals that this is not a realistic expectation”. On the possibility of a US approval for a strike by Israel, the question remains open. “Some variables have changed since last year – specifically in the US internally, compared to presidential-election time”. At the time, Obama was under stress following his TV debate with Romney, and so he may have chosen to avoid a war which could have damaged his chances at reelection.
Even absent a strike, that was a time replete with activity related to Iran: at the beginning of that month Netanyahu canceled a Security Cabinet meeting – that, following notes leaked from another meeting, concerning an overview of the Iranian nuclear program by security agencies. The canceled meeting may have been originally set to discuss possible military solutions to the Iranian problem. Additionally, Iran itself was faced with growing diplomatic pressure, including the closure of the Canadian embassy due to Iranian support of Bashar Assad, the declarations by France and Germany of their support for new sanctions on Iranian oil trade, as well as the denial by the US of entry visas to some 20 Iranian diplomats who were to attend the UN General Assembly meeting in NYC.
Do the current circumstances allow Netanyahu to strike in Iran? The answer is unclear. But while the headlines are preoccupied with Syria and the indecision on the part of Obama, the real drama remains with the ticking bomb in Iran.
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