Obama Signals Israel on Iran War

President Obama postponed a military exercise with Israel out of concern that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was drawing the U.S. into war with Iran, Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe reported. Obama took the step despite pressure from Republicans and Congress to line up behind Israel’s desires.

By Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe

The postponement of a massive joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise appears to be the culmination of a series of events that has impelled President Barack Obama’s administration to put more distance between the United States and aggressive Israeli policies toward Iran.

The exercise, called “Austere Challenge ’12″ and originally scheduled for April, was to have been a simulation of a joint U.S.-Israeli effort to identify, track and intercept incoming missiles by integrating sophisticated U.S. radar systems with the Israeli Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome anti-missile defense systems.

President Barack Obama speaks by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan. 12 (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

U.S. participation in such an exercise, obviously geared to a scenario involving an Iranian retaliation against an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, would have made the United States out to be a partner of Israel in any war that would follow an Israeli attack on Iran.

Obama and U.S. military leaders apparently decided that the United States could not participate in such an exercise so long as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to give the administration any assurance that he will not attack Iran without prior approval from Washington.

The official explanation from both Israeli and U.S. officials about the delay was that both sides agreed on it. Both Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Mark Regev, spokesman for Netanyahu, suggested that it was delayed to avoid further exacerbation of tensions in the Gulf.

The spokesman for the U.S. European Command, Capt. John Ross, and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Laura Rozen of Yahoo News on Sunday that the two sides had decided on the postponement to the second half of 2012 without offering any specific reason for it.

However, Rozen reported Monday that “several current and former American officials” had told her that the delay had been requested last month by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. One official suggested privately that there is concern that the alleged Barak request could be aimed at keeping Israel’s options open for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the spring.

But it would make little sense for Netanyahu and Barak to commit Israel to war with Iran before the shape of the U.S. presidential election campaign had become clear. And Barak would want to have knowledge gained from the joint exercise in tracking and intercepting Iranian missiles with the U.S. military before planning such a strike.

Moreover, the Israeli Air Force was still touting the planned maneuvers as recently as Thursday and, according to Israeli media, was taken by surprise by Sunday’s announcement.

The idea that the Israelis wanted the postponement appears to be a cover story to mask the political blow it represents to the Netanyahu government and to shield Obama from Republican charges that he is not sufficiently supportive of Israel. Nevertheless, the signal sent by the delay to Netanyahu and Barak, reportedly the most aggressive advocates of a strike against Iran in Israel’s right-wing government, could hardly be lost on the two leaders.

Obama may have conveyed the decision to Netanyahu during what is said to have been a lengthy telephone discussion between the two leaders Thursday night. Iran policy was one of the subjects Obama discussed with him, according to the White House press release on the conversation.

The decision to postpone the exercise may have been timed to provide a strong signal to Netanyahu in advance of this week’s visit to Israel by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, who reportedly expressed grave concern at a meeting with Obama last fall about the possibility that Israel intended to carry out a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities without consulting with Washington in advance.

Obama has been quoted as responding that he had “no say” in Israel’s policy, much to Dempsey’s dismay.

The coincidence of the announced delay with Dempsey’s mission thus suggests that the new military chief may inform his Israeli counterpart that any U.S. participation in a joint exercise like “Austere Challenge ’12″ is contingent on Israel ending its implicit threat to launch an attack on Iran at a time of its own choosing.

This apparent rift between the two countries comes in the wake of a series of moves by Israel and its supporters here that appeared aimed at ratcheting up tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

In November and December, U.S. neoconservatives aligned with Netanyahu’s Likud Party and what is sometimes called the Israel lobby engineered legislation that forced on the Obama administration a unilateral sanctions law aimed at dramatically reducing Iranian crude oil exports and “collapsing” its economy.

The administration’s reluctant embrace of sanctions against the oil sector and the Iran’s Central Bank led in turn to an Iranian threat to retaliate by closing off the Strait of Hormuz. The risk of a naval incident suddenly exploding into actual military conflict suddenly loomed large.

Netanyahu and Barak are widely believed to have hoped to provoke such conflict with a combination of more aggressive sanctions, sabotaging Iranian missile and nuclear facilities, and assassinations against
individual scientists associated with the nuclear program.

Amid tensions already reaching dangerous heights, Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was assassinated in Tehran in a bombing on Jan. 11. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor immediately condemned the assassination and vehemently denied any U.S. involvement in that or any other violence inside Iran.

It was the first time the U.S. government had chosen to distance itself so dramatically from actions that mainstream media has generally treated as part of a joint U.S.-Israeli policy. U.S. officials told the Associated Press on Saturday that Israel was considered responsible for the killing, and the London Times published a detailed account of what it said was an Israeli Mossad operation.

The killing of the nuclear scientist also came in the context of what appears to be an intensification of diplomatic activity that most observers believe is designed to lay the groundwork for another P5+1
meeting (the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany). It has been widely assumed for the past week or so that here another P5+1 meeting will be held with Iran by the end of this month or early next.

While recent published stories about Washington’s communicating with Tehran through intermediaries stressed U.S. warnings about its “red lines” in responding to any Iranian move to close the Strait of Hormuz, those same communications may also have conveyed greater diplomatic flexibility on the nuclear issue in the hope of achieving some progress toward an agreement.

Mossad is believed to have assassinated at most several Iranian nuclear scientists – not enough to slow down the Iranian program. And the timing of those operations has strongly suggested that the main aim has been to increase tensions with the United States and sabotage any possibility for agreement between Iran and the West on Iran’s nuclear program, if not actually provoke retaliation by Iran that could spark a wider conflict.

The assassination of nuclear scientist Majid Shariari and attempted assassination of his colleague, Fereydoon Abbasi on Nov. 29, 2010, for example, came just a few days after Tehran had reportedly agreed to hold a second meeting with the P5+1 in Geneva on Dec. 6 and 7.

A major investigative story by Mark Perry, published Friday on the website foreignpolicy.com, quoted former CIA officials as saying that Mossad operatives had been impersonating CIA personnel for several years in recruiting for and providing support to the Sunni terrorist organization Jundallah, which operated inside Iran. That Israeli policy also suggested a desire to provoke Iranian retaliation against the United States.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006. Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com. [This story was published by Inter Press Service.]

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24 comments on “Obama Signals Israel on Iran War

  1. Israel has always used sabotage and targeted killing when a threat in the region tried to develop non-conventional weapons, a long history of such operations. In the past none of that had anything to do with drawing the US into a war.

    In fact Iran is prepared to receive such blows to continue on with the nuclear program, very much focused on the end game of building a bomb. So there is no way a few targeted killings would draw the Persians into a war. That is how it works they concentrate on building the bomb and others try to impede their progress, short game vs the long game.

    Well the Iranians tried to blow up a restaurant, which would have killed Senators and Congress members, I think that would get harsh sanctions, especially since the Administration has done nothing.

    More over sanctions which are always watered down, will not bring the program to a close, so pressure to stop all covert operations for diplomacy is very dangerous. So it is one thing to put pressure on in relation to a military strike, but to apply the same pressure in relation to covert operations is a red line.

    I would not buy white goods from Obama, you can’t trust the guy, and taking Aegis way just proves it, he is a professional politician, me centric. With skills like that he should be running a discount store in Harlem.

    Imad has killed more Americans than Jews, but every year Israel has to go through this high level of security due to the threat of revenge. If you want someone to talk send them to the Arabs to be tortured, if you want a hit speak to the Israeli’s.

    The CIA has lost a few cells, so it give Obama political cover to cast the aspersion that any CIA cell busted is in fact a Mossad false flag. Especially good when a US citizen is going to be executed for spying alleged to work for the CIA. Not good in an election year for Barry O that one is it. An American alleged to be CIA getting necked by Iran. It is all perceptions.

    Obama stuffed up the peace process and now the US is being blackmailed at the UN by Mazen, he is still a little Palestinian bomb maker to me. So informal talks resume and he is whinging that he thinks he will be assassinated. Who cares if wants to use the US flag as toilet paper let him.

    The facts are that the DOD via wikileaks outed the Arabs, so limited war is not an option, if Iran is hit they will hit the Saudi oil fields. At least $400 US a barrel. Sure you can use a military option but it is not limited war it will be a regional war and the cost is going to be very high.

    So they have made an Iranian bomb inevitable and undermined their own objective of getting Iran to stop short. Now they face new demands, out of the gulf. Iran would not have threaten to close the straits of Hormuz over sanctions. But they now have the option of hitting the Saudi fields because while the Saudi had concerns over Iran and competes with Iran for regional influence, outing them as lobbying for the US to bomb or “cut the head off the snake” placed them in the cross hairs in any dispute, which gives Iran a strong hand. So the US has drawn themselves into a war, yet they still think they can distance themselves, not as long as they are addicted to oil.

    They have basically handed US energy security to the Iranians.

    When every effort was done to distance the Arabs and the US from the conflict. Now understand the cost was always going to be high for the Israeli’s, nothing has changed on that front.

    So it is all very interesting but one thing is clear they are not in control of the situation.

  2. smokedsalmoned on said:

    Brzezinski: Shoot Down Israeli Planes if They Attack Iran
    —–Former Carter security advisor and Obama backer Zbig Brzezinski has urged Obama to shoot at Israeli planes if they attack Iran.
    —–Zbigniew Brzezinski, who enthusiastically campaigned for U.S. President Barack Obama, has called on the president to shoot down Israeli planes if they attack Iran. “They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?” said the former national security advisor to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in an interview with the Daily Beast. Brzezinski, who served in the Carter administration from 1977 to 1981, is currently a professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Maryland.
    —–“We have to be serious about denying them that right,” he said. “If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a ‘Liberty’ in reverse.’” Israel mistakenly attacked the American Liberty ship during the Six-Day War in 1967.
    .—–Brzezinski was a top candidate to become an official advisor to President Obama, but he was downgraded after Republican and pro-Israel Democratic charges during the campaign that Brzezinski’s anti-Israel attitude would damage Obama at the polls.
    —–President Obama’s advisors have emphasized that the former national security advisor is not playing any unofficial role as advisor to the White House.
    —–His enthusiasm for President Obama has waned in the past several months. He recently told a London-based newspaper that the United States may be “sliding into a deeper conflict with various segments of the world of Islam ” because of the president’s failure to carry out his promises to the Muslim world.
    —–Brzezinski said the Obama administration is “diddling around” in trying to reach an “evasive compromise” between Israel and the Arab world.
    —–By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu First Publish: 9/21/2009, 7:05 AM / Last Update: 9/21/2009, 8:02 AM
    —–(The Left and so many of those who surround Obama are so dead set against Israel defending itself that is is a damning thing. Perhaps you really can judge a man by the company he keeps.)

  3. smokedsalmoned on said:

    Biden To Israel: Accept Iran With Nukes!
    .
    Then Senator Joe Biden told Israeli officials that they need to accept the idea Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. Israel’s Army Radio reported details of the comments Biden made when he met with “senior Israeli officials behind closed doors.” “Israel will have to reconcile itself with the nuclearization of Iran,” Army Radio quoted Biden as telling the Israelis.
    .
    Biden had once been a strong past supporter of Israel but during the Primary elections and since then he gave mixed signals to Israel, arguing for direct negotiations with Iran. He continued to support direct negotiations with Iran since the election, up trough the October 11th federal accusations that Iran was plotting to kill a Saudi Ambassador on US soil.

  4. smokedsalmoned on said:

    Obama Betrays Israel! Again And Again.
    .
    In the war on Islamic Terrorism and in the world at large do we stand on the side of the terrorists or on the side of those dealing with and fighting against a common enemy?
    .
    The quick condemnation of Israel for the deadly incident on the flotilla that attempted to violate Israels blockade of Palestine, back in early June 2010, was unseemly. The incident was less than 24 hours old, had not been investigated and accusations that the Israelis came in shooting were easily refuted by actual footage of the initial landing on the boat. That over a dozen Israeli soldiers were apparently beaten or shot would seem to support the Israelis side of the story, however even that had not been investigated by the time the US joined, predominantly Muslim nations pushing for condemnation of the incident by Israel.
    .
    The US could and should have vetoed that condemnation and stated that there first had to be an investigation. We sided with those nation states who hate israel or whom have direct sympathy with the terrorists and that is a sad day. Especially in light of how embarrassingly wrong the footage proved obama to be.

  5. smokedsalmoned on said:

    OBAMA ADMINISTRATIONS STANCE ON ISRAEL – ANTI
    – Obama Calls For Israels Return To Pre – 1967 Mid East War Borders
    Obama on Thursday 5/19/2011 made official his long-held but rarely stated U.S. policy that a future Palestinian state should be based on borders that existed before the 67 Mid East war adding that “the dream of a Jewish & democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.”
    .
    –June 2010, Obama condemns Israels actions in policing its blockade from a muslim terrorist group (UN & US designated as such) backed floatilla. When film footage came out showing Israeli soldiers lawfully bordering blockade running ships, then being brutally attacked by the muslims on those ships, Obama did not apologize for hasty anti Israeli remarks
    .
    –March 2009, Obama used to Hillary Clinton to criticize Israel’s plans to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes w/in East Jerusalem as well to publicly make friendly overtures toward Iran. Obama and Clinton clearly overlooked the fact that the demolition of homes built without permits are within the right of a lawfully elected government and it is not proper for the Obama Administration to interfere with Israel on such internal matters
    .
    –In a historic moment, Sec State Hillary Clinton, speaking on behalf of the Obama administration said on Tuesday March 3, 2009 that “the U.S. would push forward with its efforts to forge a peace deal that includes the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
    Clinton also said U.S. would soon send two envoys to Syria, in the most significant sign yet that the Obama administration is ready to build ties with the Damascus regime. We had pulled out in 2005 after identifying the regimes ties to terrorism and the suspected role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri
    .
    – Biden To Israel: Accept Iran With Nukes!
    Sen Joe Biden told Israeli officials that they need to accept the idea Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. Israel’s Army Radio reported details of the comments Biden made when he met with “senior Israeli officials behind closed doors.” “Israel will have to reconcile itself with the nuclearization of Iran,” Army Radio quoted Biden telling the Israelis
    .
    – Hillary
    Before Hillary Clinton became a candidate for US Senate, she was quoted publicly justifying attacks on Israeli by groups such as Hamas as well as other notorious Arab Terrorists. She also made past statements criticizing the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for deporting as well as jailing known terrorists. She has chaired an Arab committee which had a reception for all the ambassadors to the US in Washington, D.C. & yet she had no problem with the exclusion of Israel from that very reception
    After becoming candidate for Senator she accepted large financial contributions from her Arab affiliates who one can only assume hoped to elect her so as to use her influence against the State of Israel.
    Is a good friend of Al Sharpton, a guy who has been quoted saying that the Jewish people exploit other New Yorkers
    .
    WRIGHTS ADDITONAL UGLY INFLUENCE
    –”The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for over 40 yrs now. Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community and wake up Americans concerning the injustice & the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism.”
    –“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” (Sep 2001)
    – Wright is a former Muslim
    –Wright has been quoted as saying “When Obamas enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli to visit Muammar al-Gaddafi with [Louis] Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell.”

  6. smokedsalmoned on said:

    Obama Abandons Israel….Over And Over
    .
    In the speech Obama gave in Cairo on 6/4/09 he said the following of the Palestinian people “They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.” The blame for their suffering, within the larger body of the text, lay at the feet of Israel.
    .
    While I am sure that this speech went over well with Muslims it was a slap in the fact to Israelis who have endured decades of terrorist attach and wars aimed at exterminating the Jewish people. Some of us in this world still remember the recent years of Palestinians launching thousands of rockets at Israel, rockets provided to them with funds from the rest of the Muslim world. We recall the Palestinians freely electing a terrorist organization to run their territory. These are the same people who cheered Iraqi rocket attacks into Israel and are by & large the main cannon fodder for terrorists who have murdered Israelis for decades.
    .
    Mr. Obama has now clearly abandoned Israel and the “good” news for Obama is that his blame Israel strategy seems to have paid off since The Pew Research Center found that the image of the US has risen in every nation except Israel. How Mr. Obama carried 85+% of the Jewish vote in this country, when he seems hell bent on making existence difficult for Israel, is quite the mystery.

  7. smokedsalmoned on said:

    Egyptian airline “wipes out” Israel:
    .
    Carrier erases Jewish state from its route maps – even though it flies to Tel Aviv four times a week!
    .
    Per the Daily Mail 3/25/11 article, read on.
    .
    They haven’t been at war with each other for more than 30 years.
    .
    But diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel may be plummeting to a new low after a Cairo airline decided to wipe the Jewish state off the map
    .
    Although Egypt Air flies regularly to Israel’s capital, Tel Aviv, through a subsidiary, the destination does not appear on any of the airline’s route maps.
    .

    Off the map: Egypt Air’s route map does not feature Israel or its capital, Tel Aviv
    .
    According to the website Ynetnews, Israel has been swallowed up by its Arab neighbour, Jordan, whose border now stops at the Mediterranean Sea.
    .
    ‘The airline’s subsidiary, Air Sinai, flies to Israel regularly, but customers seeking flights to Ben Gurion National Airport will have a hard time finding them,’ the website reports.
    .
    ‘On the map are the names of the Mideast capitals – Amman, Beirut, and Damascus – but Israel is nowhere to be found.’
    .
    The website pointed out that the exclusion was ‘especially odd’ because flights out of Egypt to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion National Airport are becoming increasingly popular.
    .
    ‘Cairo-Tel Aviv flights were temporarily halted following the recent uprising that overturned the government, but were then reinstated,’ it noted.
    .
    ‘There has also been an increase in passengers on Air Sinai’s flights. According to the Airports Authority, the airline saw an increase of 27 per cent in 2010 from the year previous.’
    .
    (After the new Egyptian Presidents speech at the capital square, with The Muslim Brother Hoods leader standing at his side – the brotherhoods stated goals is to wipe out Israel & want to end the peace treaty with Israel & Egypt – and allowing Iran to sail through the Suez Canal for the first time since 1979, this is no surprise. Obamas silence on all of these matters is unnerving.)
    .
    And yet obama is going to give the egyptian (read muslim brotherood) government money.

  8. smokedsalmoned on said:

    Sarkozy tells Obama he thinks Netanyahu (Israel’s Leader) is a liar at November 2011 G20 summit and Obama appears to agree with him…caught on tape!
    .
    “I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.
    .
    “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied, according to the French interpreter.
    .
    So Obama is essentially agreeing with Sarkozy that he at a minimum does not like working with the Israel’s leader and most would argue that he is agreeing with Sarkozy’s position that Netanyahu a liar.
    .
    Our lone friend in the Middle East and Obama apparently despises him. When your choice is working with Israel or the terrorists over in Palestine, it appears that Obama and Sarkozy have made their choice. Yet another in a long list of Obama hostility toward Israel if not outright anti-semitism.
    .

    Source: news.yahoo.com/sarkozy-told-obama-fed-israeli-pm-092347721.html
    .
    (When you have to choose between terrorists and the state of Israel, is there really a choice? Obama is a naïve fool.)

    • maxcfm on said:

      Israel costs me too much money!

    • “Sarkozy tells Obama he thinks Netanyahu (Israel’s Leader) is a liar at November 2011 G20 summit and Obama appears to agree with him…caught on tape!”

      Good. And now we all know.

    • LEADERS do what THEY believe they should do rather what OTHERS dictate they should do. This time the leader seems deeper than his predecessor – in color as well as in thought.

  9. tired pessimist on said:

    Your excellent article has gotten serious attention from two more overwrought neocons, who seem to want to cover the comments list like a wet sheet, so you must be doing something right, given that that they have hoisted themselves on their own pitard.

    • Hasbarists are just wasting their time with all the spin and the rewriting of history when the entire world already knows that Israel will always be at fault as long as it does not abide by international law on every level.

      In the Hasbara community, international law = anti-Semite LOL !

      • “Israel will always be at fault as long as it does not abide by international law on every level.”

        Does it?
        I don’t think it abides on any level.
        Last I heard the entire world (?)does not like what the Zionists do to the Palestinians.
        Neither do most of the Israelis.

  10. Harlan Carpenter on said:

    Obama cancels joint military exercise with Israel…! This is a surprise from the master of all wimpery…?

  11. Pingback: Will Obama Resist Push for Iran War? | Consortiumnews

  12. charles sereno on said:

    Just common sense here. Despite the Iran bluster about the (implied) closure of Strait of Hormuz, isn’t their Non-nuclear Option realistically an apparent ability to strike Saudi Arabia’s two oil terminal complexes in the Gulf from dispersed launch sites with functional missiles? Sort of a MAD strategy?

  13. Perhaps Obama is shutting all the doors leading to his re-election.

  14. Pingback: Israel Tamps Down Iran War Threats | Consortiumnews

  15. Pingback: Ray McGovern> Israel Tamps Down Iran War Threats « WAMMToday

  16. Pingback: Obama Stands Up to Israel, Tamps Down Iran War Threats | My Catbird Seat

  17. elmerfudzie on said:

    There are several unspoken entanglements that the USA has with the military forces of Israel. First, we share the same “friend or foe chip” technology for fighter aircraft and missiles. I wonder if this caused the spring cancellation for joint excercises? The shared chips may prevent our forces from shooting down Israeli F-15′s that act against our wishes. Secondly, Israel (mossad) most likely stole it’s nuclear weapons material from our US facilities and consequently if they do use nukes against Iran, the fission signatures from the Apollo, PA recycled uranium and other seemingly untraceable sources would confuse as to who was actually responsible for a regional war. As we all know the first thing to die in war is truth. I can only hope that the last hold on Israel is the possibility that the next holocaust will point to them but it’s unlikely in light of these arguments.

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