DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 26, 2010, 11:01 AM (GMT+02:00)
A study of the mood among Israeli leaders and military chiefs indicates that at any moment a strike on Iran's nuclear sites must be taken into account. The Israeli media show nothing of this; they are totally absorbed in guessing whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will extend the 10-month settlement construction moratorium beyond its Sept. 25 expiry date at the talks opening with the Palestinians next week. The American media, in contrast, are highlighting speculation about a possible Israeli attack on Iran.
debkafile's Washington and Jerusalem sources believe Israel has revived its military option against Iran - especially since Iran activated its first nuclear reactor at Bushehr on Aug. 21, thereby placing Washington under enormous pressure. In addition to the dire predictions of catastrophe planted on various op-ed pages, the Obama administration this week sent two big guns to Jerusalem to try and check an Israel attack.
The first to arrive was International Atomic Energy Agency Director Yukiya Amano, who explained that under his stewardship the nuclear watchdog's treatment of Iran would be quite different from the lenience shown by his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei. He promised its inspectors would henceforth clamp down hard on Iran's nuclear activities including the Bushehr reactor.
Thursday, Aug. 26, Amano was joined by Daniel Shapiro, Middle East Director of the National Security Council and close friend of many Israeli leaders. He came laden with offers of security gifts - possible rewards both for restraint on Iran and as a softener for Netanyahu to be generous with concessions to the Palestinians in the forthcoming negotiations.
Shapiro has taken three days to make his pitch on Iran, while Netanyahu has less than a week to decide whether he can again trust the US president's new promises after they were not exactly upheld in the way the Bushehr reactor was allowed to go on stream or the modalities for the negotiations with the Palestinians.
While preparing the Shapiro mission, the administration let it be known that the security gifts on offer would be dramatic and make the IDF one of the strongest and most advanced armies in the world.
Advance notice came in a series of leaks to former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, who is very close to President Obama, for an article he published in the influentialThe National Interest on Aug. 25 under the caption "If Israel Attacks."
Riedel urged the US to do everything in its power to stop an attack happening as it would spell catastrophe and advised Israel to adjust to the fact that the development of an Iranian atom bomb can no longer be halted.
To make Israel feel secure in the new reality, Riedel "proposed" four steps for strengthening the Israeli armed forces and lending it a second-strike capability - even against an Iranian nuclear attack.
1. The US must spread a nuclear umbrella over Israel that would entail the installation of American nuclear depots in Israel to show Tehran that a nuclear attack on the Jewish state would meet with a US nuclear response.
2. American nuclear submarines would be supplied to the Israeli Navy as the backbone of its nuclear counter-strike capability. There are two categories - ballistic missile submarines and attack submarines.
3. The Israeli Air Force would receive US F-22 Raptor stealth jets, the most sophisticated warplane in the skies today. They would be equipped with all the systems and ordnance needed to strike the Iranian nuclear program.
4. The US would arrange for Israel's full membership of NATO, so rendering an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel subject not just to US retaliation but a declaration of war by the 26-member alliance.
To qualify for these American security perks, Riedel made it clear that Israel would be required to come to terms with a nuclear-armed Iran and eschew military action against it, a provision which debkafile's military and Jerusalem sources say the Netanyahu government is most unlikely to accept.
For the Riedel analysis, which runs to 3,600 words, has a built-in contradiction. He portrays the Iranian leadership as consisting, behind their fiery rhetoric, of reasonable people who, when it comes down to it, will react to military and political pressure situations in a way that will not endanger their regime and their country's very survival.
However, this proposition does not take into account the Islamic Republic rulers' persistent threats to wipe Israel off the map (without regard to the hazards this would incur) or his own and the Obama administration's conviction that if Israel attacks Iran, Tehran will hit back at US targets and interests (even more hazardous).
debkafile's sources ask: Why would a "reasonable" regime risk going to war with America instead of limiting its military action to Israel?
And what good would all the wonderful new military systems be to Israel for a second-strike capability when an initial Iranian nuclear attack would suffice to destroy the tiny Jewish state?