Every day, perhaps every hour, there are new reports regarding Iran, the Israeli position, the US position, and the intersection between the two positions. Some of these reports are mutually exclusive: if Israel attacks Iran the US won't be told in order to give the Americans deniability; if Israel attacks Iran the US will provide backup. Etc. etc.
Of course this stuff doesn't only make one's head spin, it IS spin. It's a question of what various parties want the public to think. In at least one instance (only one?), I considered reportage by a major newspaper to have been considerably less than professional. When the text of the message (which I will not repeat here) says the source has not been confirmed, but the headline blares the news as if it were fact, there is something terribly amiss. Some of the very vague allusions to various scenarios have come from Wikileaks, which has stolen communication from Stratfor.
I share here the broad conclusions I have drawn, to date, while including the proviso that since so much is spin there is a way in which almost everything is speculation.
The one thing that does seem clear is that Israel and the US are attempting to lend at least an impression of being on the same page on Iran. What I'm seeing is that America is advancing a decidedly tougher line with regard to using a military option if necessary.
According to a report released by Bloomberg, US Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz said Wednesday that US plans to attack Iran are in place. "What we can do, you wouldn't want to be in the area." Anonymous Pentagon officials are cited as saying plans include the possibility of a joint US-Israeli effort. America, they are reported as saying, would bomb not just nuclear targets, but also "the pillars of the clerical regime, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and its elite Quds Force, regular Iranian military bases and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security."
Just bluff? Don't know. Maybe the Americans are finally getting the message that Iran is more likely to back down in the face of sanctions if there is a credible military threat backing it up. Maybe Obama knows that Netanyahu will move ahead at his own pace, and has decided that it would mitigate Iranian retaliation if the US were ready to be involved.
Certainly, despite some reports to the contrary, it appears at a minimum that the US does want as much advance notice as possible if we were to attack.
There is no indication that Netanyahu is caving to Obama -- the stronger stance the US is taking, in and of itself, certainly leads towards that conclusion. He appears to be holding fast on his intention to defend Israel as he deems proper.
And I have a distinct impression that he has been out-and-out furious about American efforts to diminish the likelihood that Israel would be able to accomplish a strike on Iran. There was that report in the NYTimes, for example, that carried leaks from military men. Attempting to make Israel look weaker (presumably to diminish support for Israel and Israeli confidence in her own capacity) is most decidedly counterproductive and in the end just plain stupid.
As we all know, Obama would like Netanyahu to delay any action until there is more time for sanctions to work -- although the possibility that they will work is considered by most serious analysts to be very slight indeed. Israeli concern has been that delay would bring us to the time when Iran would have already entered that "zone of immunity," with equipment buried in new, deeper bunkers. If Netanyahu does agree to delay, it may be because he will have secured a commitment from the US, which has more top-flight bunker busters, to be involved when there is an operation. But we won't know this.
There will likely be a joint statement of some sort after the meeting between the heads of state on Monday. Don't count on it for real information.
And my final statement at this juncture -- a statement made from Jerusalem by someone who has lost more than a little sleep over this:
Israel is in Iran's sites at the moment. That the world ignores this is painful but not really unexpected. What infuriates is the attitude of the world that Israel is a trouble-maker because of her intent to defend herself as deemed necessary. There is more concern in some quarters about what Israel may or may not do to Iran, than there is about whether Iran may reach nuclear break-out point.
After all, if we hit Iran to save the Jewish nation, oil prices might go up, the "very stable" Middle East might be "destabilized" and there might be some retaliation by Iran -- and none of this would be acceptable to the world. This paints for me in bold relief a picture of the venality of a world that operates in totally amoral terms. As we know, the world is good at weeping about dead Jews. Live ones? That's another story.
But there is much more than this going on. What people don't grasp is that ultimately Iran is not Israel's problem, it's the world's problem.
Perhaps the situation is changing, but until now there has been scant recognition among the American people or their elected president that Iran is seeking a world-wide Islamic caliphate that requires destruction of the Western system. That Iran is building an intercontinental ballistic missile that will be able to reach the eastern US, as well as all of Europe, and is talking about placing missiles in Latin America, from where said missiles could readily reach the US. That, should Iran achieve nuclear capacity, it would feel invincible and raise oil prices, move on its Arab neighbors and generally cause havoc in the region.
This is how I see the world:
Reaching out to Iran to "negotiate" in order to get them to genuinely halt their nuclear efforts? Come on! But the world -- and Obama is very much included here -- has relied on such efforts to make themselves feel they are "doing something."
If Netanyahu has finally convinced Obama to begin to think otherwise, or if Netanyahu's determination to act has convinced the US that there's no choice but to take a different position, this is something to be grateful for.
Only two nations in the world can accomplish a military attack against Iran: Israel and the US. The US can do it better. Israel can set back Iranian nuclear efforts by some years. The US can destroy the entire project.
Suggestions that the US may be involved in our efforts or launch its own efforts -- however much spin there may be here -- have the effect of generating a very tiny spark of hope that perhaps things just might be moving in a better direction.
Please see this article by Evelyn Gordon, writing as a JINSA Visiting Fellow -- "Forget the Palestinians, the Future of Land-for-Peace Deals Depends on Egypt":
Her thesis, quite simply, is that pulling out of an area to achieve peace has backfired for Israel several times -- in Lebanon and in Gaza, and with regard to partial pullouts after Oslo. The only agreement in which a pullout -- from Sinai -- has bought Israel peace has been in the treaty with Egypt:
"...the treaty with Egypt served as the shining counterexample - the proof that land for peace could work, given the right partners and the right conditions. Though never more than a cold peace, it consistently provided Israel with the one great good it promised, a secure southern border. And it survived despite repeated tensions, including two Palestinian intifadas and two Israeli-Lebanese wars.
"Now, however, it looks increasingly likely that what made the Egyptian peace succeed was not any intrinsic merit in the land-for-peace paradigm, but merely the remarkable longevity in office of one man, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year tenure encompassed most of the treaty's lifespan.
"And that in turn is leading a growing number of Israelis who previously supported land-for-peace to wonder whether it may not be an inherently unworkable paradigm, due to the fatal flaw encapsulated in its very name. In any land-for-peace deal, only one party actually considers 'peace' a value worth trading for. What interests the other party is not peace, but gaining strategic assets such as land." (Emphasis added)
And then this excellent article by Gil Troy, from the JPost, about "Abbas, the Masquerading Moderate" (All emphasis added):
"...Mahmoud Abbas is to moderation what moldy oranges are to penicillin. If purified properly, the product could be healing; but as it now stands, it is putrid and possibly toxic.
...Abbas the Masquerading Moderate has been the Great Obstructionist, far more accommodating of his Hamas rivals than his American bankrollers.
"...again and again Abbas has been Dr. No – blocking progress...
"This week, Abbas traveled to Doha to participate in an 'International Conference on Jerusalem,' with representatives from 70 countries. Anti-Zionist discourse in that part of the Middle East was as ubiquitous as Muzak is in elevators in the Midwest, intensified by the added volatility of the Jerusalem issue, with a dash of anti-Americanism thrown in...
"When Abbas spoke, rather than injecting a note of responsibility into the proceedings, providing a reality check, he joined the anti-Israel pile on. He claimed Israel wants to 'carry out continued excavations that threaten to undermine the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in order to extract evidence that supports the Israeli version of Judaism.' He said Israelis wanted to 'Judaize' the city and 'were preparing models of what they call the Temple in order to build on the ruins of Al Aqsa.'
"Any one of these three incendiary ideas would earn an extremist street 'cred' as a flamethrower. Few Israelis are proposing a Third Temple. Claiming 'the Jews' wish to replace the Al-Aqsa Mosque with their own structure is a demagogic call for Arab rioting in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Second, mischievous phrases like 'the Israeli version of Judaism' and 'what they call the Temple,' try to rob Jews of our history, our legitimacy, our nationality. Abbas’s words echo longstanding Palestinian claims that Judaism is a religion with no peoplehood component, that the Temple never existed, and that the whole Zionist, meaning Jewish nationalist, project is a fraud.
"Finally, Abbas’s allegations about 'Judaizing' Jerusalem ignore the fact that Jerusalem is already Jewish and Muslim and Christian. Abbas’s implication, that Jews are engaged in ethnic cleansing, would require us to characterize modern Israelis as incompetent not just evil. Today’s Jerusalem has 800,000 residents, including 268,000 Arabs. In the nearly 45 years since the 1967 Six Day War, the Arab population has grown by 200,000, and many Arabs today appreciate their Israeli rights and services. The number of Arab Jerusalemites granted Israeli citizenship quadrupled from 2006 to 2010. If Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing, Israelis would have to admit to being the worst – meaning the most ineffectual -- 'ethnic cleansers' in history, having triggered a population increase due to higher quality of life including more freedom.
"Once again, Abbas missed an opportunity to play the statesman...He played the Jerusalem card, riling his audience, and alienating Israelis. That he nevertheless passes for a moderate, demonstrates just how extreme other Palestinian voices are, such as Hamas, and just how indulgent world opinion is when it comes to coddling the Palestinians."
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.