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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
| July 14, 2009
Is Israel preparing to attack Iran's nuclear facilities? Is the U.S. granting permission?
Friend of FLAME:
While the Obama administration's posture on the Middle East has so far seemed
disproportionately to favor Arab interests and to exert unwelcome pressure
on Israel (the United States' only ally in the region), we've seen a possible
change in U.S. tone over the last few weeks, particularly with regard to Iran. In
addition, Israel seems to be laying the strategic groundwork for an attack
on the terrorist state's growing nuclear capability.
Here's the background: A few weeks ago, an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine
for the first time in years sailed from the Mediterranean through the Suez
canal to the Red Sea. This means that apparently Israel has negotiated access
with Egypt to pass through the canal to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian
Sea. Since Israel's submarines have the ability to deploy nuclear-tipped
and conventional missiles, such access would give Israel convenient (instead
of taking the very long route around Africa) second-strike support for an attack
Next, we read that Saudi Arabia had given Israel approval to use their airspace
for a military attack on Iran. According to the (UK) Sunday Times,
Mossad chief Meir Dagan held secret meetings with Saudi officials, who
gave their tacit approval to Israel's use of the kingdom's airspace. According
to a diplomatic source: "The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air
force flying through their airspace on a mission that is supposed to be in
the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia."
Then last weekend Vice-President Joe Biden said in an ABC interview that Israel
has the right to determine its own course of action with regard to the Iranian
nuclear threat, regardless of what the Obama administration chooses to do.
When asked whether the Obama administration would restrain Israeli military
action against Iran, Biden responded: "Israel can determine for itself---it's
a sovereign nation---what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative
to Iran and anyone else . . . If the Netanyahu government decides to take a
course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign
right to do that. That is not our choice."
This sounds as close to a green-light signal as you can get. But given
Biden's propensity for shooting his mouth off, it's not entirely clear if U.S.
policy toward Iran has changed.
But if Biden is signaling approval, it would be a big shift from Obama's Cairo
speech, in which he declared that no one country could determine if another
could acquire nuclear weapons. Is Obama now allowing Israel to be the world's
nuclear watchdog while he assumes some grand position of neutrality, sitting
above the fray and unwilling to assert American military power even if facing
a nuclear-armed Iran? If Obama is not going to stand up to Iran himself, it's
certainly a good thing indeed to signal that Israel can defend itself and indeed
the rest of the region.
Perhaps most importantly, if both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are feeling fearful
enough of a nuclear-armed Iran to clear air and sea space for an Israeli attack,
it takes the starch out of Obama's contention (and that of many others)
that a Palestinian-Israeli peace is the linchpin for securing Arab-Western
point of fact, resolution of the Palestinian question has little to do with
defusing the Iranian threat or of achieving a greater Middle East peace.
For evidence that the Obama administration may be beginning to realize this---and
to realize the deterrent value Israel can play vis a vis Iran, we offer Israeli
commentator Aluf Benn's analysis from HaAretz newspaper---a concise
summary of the emerging situation.
(Thanks to our friend Seymour Kessler of Berkeley Bridges to Israel for inspiring
this FLAME Hotline and offering much of the analysis in it.)
If you agree that
Iran presents one of the greatest dangers to Israel, the United
States and to world peace in general---please review the recent
FLAME position paper---"The
Deadly Threat of a Nuclear-Armed Iran: What can the world, what can the USA,
what can Israel do about it?" While the Obama administration wants
to focus on an Israel-Palestinian agreement before resolving the threat of
a nuclear-armed Iran, common sense---and this powerful FLAME position paper---tell
us otherwise. This editorial piece has run in national media delivering
more than ten million impressions, including to college students and all U.S.
Senators and Representatives. We also recently posted another excellent
article on the significance of recent demonstrations in Iran, called "The
prescience of protest: What the dissidents know about Iran," by Natan
Sharansky, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Please
check it out. Above all, if you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of
public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us.
Remember: FLAME's ability to influence public opinion---including the misguided
inclination to hold Israel solely responsible for peace in the Middle East---comes
from Israel's supporters like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving
a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember,
your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to http://www.factsandlogic.org/make_a_donation.html.
Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support
it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American
||President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens
on his Middle East policies. To give him yours, please go right now to write
U.S. wants Iran to know it can be attacked
by Aluf Benn, Haaretz, July 7, 2009
Iran's nuclear program has been restored to prominence on the American-Israeli
diplomatic agenda. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted the "two
states for two peoples" formula on the Palestinian issue, American recompense
came in the form of Vice President Joe Biden's statement that Israel, as a "sovereign
nation," will decide for itself how to deal with Iran.
George Stephanopoulos, the ABC television presenter to whom Biden made this
remark, thrice asked him how the U.S. would respond if Netanyahu took independent
action on Iran. Biden did not hesitate. The U.S., he said, "cannot dictate
to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do" if they feel
threatened by another country.
That is almost exactly what Condoleezza Rice, former president George W. Bush's
secretary of state, said when asked the same question a year ago. However,
Biden declined to say whether the U.S. would allow Israel to overfly Iraq en
route to Iran. Biden's words should not be understood as American permission
for Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. Rather, they were a veiled warning
to Iran that if it does not embark on a serious dialogue with President Barack
Obama's administration, it is liable to be attacked.
An Israeli government source said Biden's statement was not
coordinated with Israel. But it clearly serves Netanyahu, who sees halting
Iran's nuclear program as a historic mission.
In recent weeks, Israel's diplomatic attention has been diverted from Iran
to Washington's demand for a settlement freeze. The person who returned Iran
to center stage is John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,
who has become the Republican Party's leading spokesman on foreign affairs.
In an article published in The Washington Post last week, Bolton said an Israeli
attack is now the only way to halt Iran's nuclear program.
Netanyahu, in contrast, has lowered his profile on Iran and stopped warning
of a "second Holocaust" if Iran obtains nuclear weapons. Instead,
he has adopted his predecessors' policy of working behind the scenes to send
the message that Israel's patience has limits. This message has been conveyed
in various ways: the passage of an Israeli nuclear submarine through the Suez
Canal, with Egyptian consent, thus bringing it closer to Iran; ambassador-designate
to Washington Michael Oren's statement this weekend that a nuclear Iran could "wipe
Israel off the map" in an instant; and the leak (swiftly denied) to the
Sunday Times that Saudi Arabia had agreed to let Israel Air Force jets overfly
it en route to attacking Iran.
Israeli officials argue that Iran's apparently fraudulent election and
its brutal suppression of the subsequent demonstrations reveal the pointlessness
of talking with Tehran and the need for stiffer sanctions. The statements of
the last few days are meant to bolster this message with hints of possible
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