Iran remains very much in the news — and with solid reason.
No one — except the parties both here and the US who are directly involved — know exactly what’s going on. And probably even they don’t all know, because so much remains in the air.
There is, first, the question of how far Iran has progressed towards nuclear capability — with Israel convinced that it’s closer than US experts believe; there’s apparently a discrepancy of some six to 12 months in terms of how close Iran is perceived as being.
Then, as I’ve indicated before, there is disagreement within the US on whether to hit Iran. There is also the issue of what Israel, which is inclined to go the military route, needs in terms of US cooperation, agreement, support, before proceeding.
On Wednesday, Iran launched a missile as part of an exercise, claiming that this was an improved version of the Shahab-3, capable of reaching Israel.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared, The test “is certainly contrary to the spirit of Security Council resolutions and the will of the international community.”
Well, wake up, guys! (As one of my readers, Michael Poppers, pointed out to me the other day, it is not only Israel that has leaders that refuse to see long-range consequences — and here is a stunning example of just that.) Why should Gates remotely imagine that Iran is interested in the will of the international community?
But, said William Burns, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, “We view force as an option that is on the table but a last resort. We do not believe we have exhausted all the diplomatic possibilities.”
The US, for its part, did anti-missile training last week : two Aegis warships — one off the coast of Israel, and the other in the Persian Gulf — practiced defeating a combined missile attack from Syria, Lebanon, and Iran against Israel.
In tests to date, the Aegis system has knocked down nearly 90% of the missiles fired towards it.
In concert with this came warnings from Sec. Rice:
Washington , she said, had strengthened its “security presence” in the Gulf. “We will defend American interests and the interests of our allies…In the Gulf area, the United States has enhanced its security capacity, its security presence, and we are working closely with all our allies…to make [sure] they are capable of defending themselves. These are all elements of America’s intention and determination to prevent Iran from threatening our interest or the interests of our friends and allies.”
Minister of Defense Ehud Barak will be headed for Washington on Monday, where — in the course of three days — he will meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and probably President Bush.
Mossad Chief Meir Dagan just returned from Washington, and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi will be going within days.
The urgent goal of the Israelis is said to be convincing American officials that Iran is closer to becoming nuclear than many believe. Close consultations are on-going as the time for final decisions and planning comes closer.
Barak told his Labor party faction that:
“The Iranian issue is a challenge not just for Israel but for the entire world. Israel is the strongest country in the region and we have proven in the past that we are not deterred from acting when our vital interests are at stake.”
In reporting other happenings (or potential happenings) here, I have an enormous sense of deja vu, and so am reluctant to belabor too much what has been said and said again.
Take, for example, comments by senior Israeli defense officials that the “ceasefire” — which is seeing almost daily violations — may be ending soon. The IDF, we are told, is preparing for a possible military action.
Yes, we know. The IDF has been preparing for military action for a long time. But is Olmert about to stop being “patient” and give the order now, when he’s in so much political trouble?
Then there is the announcement by the PA that it is “considering” a freeze on negotiations with Israel because of Israeli plans to build more housing in Jerusalem.
If I had a shekel for every time the PA has made such a threat, I’d be a rich woman by now.
Today Olmert will be interrogated, and Talansky is back in Israel in preparation for his cross-examination next Thursday. Olmert’s lawyers are hoping to discredit him.
I will, of course, deal with this in greater detail next week.
The off-the-record assumption (offered, for example, by the former head of police investigations) is that when the dust settles and all is done, Olmert indeed will be indicted, possibly in August.
According to reports offered via Kadima officials , Olmert has just agreed — after previously balking — that when the Kadima primary is held in September, the winner can form a new government and take over immediately.
My take on this is that he agreed because he knows he likely to be indicted and forced to resign anyway.
Seeing — at long last! — the fall of Ehud Olmert will be blessing. But it is not enough for this country. Kadima needs to be out of power completely — we need a clean sweep, not Livni or Mofaz moving in with the same crew carrying on.