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Target Iran: What Bombing Syria Is Really About

The broader framework of the Syrian crisis involves the Israeli-Iranian dispute and the future of regional peace.

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Of course, Panetta was simply reiterating the consensus conclusion of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that declared in 2007 that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and that it did not appear that such work had resumed.

And even if you don’t want to believe the U.S. intelligence community and Panetta, there was the acknowledgement by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israeli intelligence had reached the same judgment. Barak gave an interview on Jan. 18, 2002, the day before JCS Chairman Martin Dempsey arrived for talks in Israel:

“Question: Is it Israel’s judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?

Barak: … confusion stems from the fact that people ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now … in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case. …

Question: How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?

Barak: I don’t know; one has to estimate. … Some say a year, others say 18 months. It doesn’t really matter. To do that, Iran would have to announce it is leaving the [UN International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection regime and stop responding to IAEA’s criticism, etc.

Why haven’t they [the Iranians] done that? Because they realize that … when it became clear to everyone that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, this would constitute definite proof that time is actually running out. This could generate either harsher sanctions or other action against them. They do not want that.”

So, for those of you just now joining us, Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon ten years ago. That is the unanimous judgment expressed by all U.S. intelligence agencies “with high confidence” in 2007, and has been revalidated every year since. Thus, Israel’s aim can be seen as “regime change” in Tehran, not the halting of a nuclear weapons program that stopped ten years ago. (It should be noted, too, that Israel possesses a sophisticated and undeclared nuclear arsenal that President Obama and other U.S. leaders have politely refused to acknowledge publicly.)

No one knows all this better than the Iranians themselves. But, for Israel, Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani poses a more subtle threat than the easier-to-demonize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The more moderate and polished Rouhani – IF he can calm those Iranians who consider Washington a Siamese twin to Tel Aviv – may be able to enter renewed talks on the nuclear issue with concessions that the West would find difficult to refuse.

This would rattle the Israelis and the neocons in Washington who must be pining for the days when Ahmadinejad made it easier to mask the very real concessions made while he was president. Israeli and neocon hardliners have amply demonstrated that – despite their public face – they have little concern over Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program. Quite simply, they would like to get the U.S. to do to Iran what it did to Iraq. Period.

Israel Riding High Again

Dealing with more moderate leaders in Iran remains one of Israel’s major headaches, even as Israel has ridden a string of geopolitical successes over the past several weeks. First and foremost, the Israelis were able to persuade Washington to represent the military coup d’état in Cairo as something other than a military coup, which enabled U.S. military and other aid to keep flowing to the Israel-friendly Egyptian military.

After shielding this blood-stained Egyptian military from geopolitical pressure, Israel was rewarded by the generals’ decision to  choke off Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world via Egypt and thus further punish the Gazans for having the temerity to elect the more militant Hamas as their leadership.

 
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