March 1, 2012
Barring last-minute changes, US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will still be at profound cross purposes on Iran when they meet at the White House on March 5. Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak flew to Washington to try and work out with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Wednesday, Feb. 29 a formula for bridging the widening gap. DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that notwithstanding their smiling embraces, Barak flew straight back home to inform the prime minister they had failed.
While still airborne, Barak heard White House Spokesman Jay Carney further sharpen Obama’s current tone: “I think we have been clear about this – that any (Israeli) military action in that region threatens greater instability in the region, because Iran borders both Afghanistan and Iraq – we have civilian personnel in Iraq, we have military personnel as well as civilians in Afghanistan.”
Carney added “But our approach right now is to continue to pursue the diplomatic path that we’ve taken, combined with very aggressive sanctions.”
Senior American and Israeli officials said on Thursday, March 1 that this statement confirmed that the president had turned down two key Israeli requests:
1. To set final and absolute red lines for Iran’s nuclear program which, if crossed, would provide the grounds for the US and Israel to strike its nuclear sites. Israel maintains that Washington’s Iran policy can be summed up as “shifting red lines:” Whenever Iran moves ahead with another nuclear achievement, the US sets new “red lines” to avoid a confrontation. This enables Tehran to jump its nuclear program forward from one US “red line” to the next.
2. To stop reciting the mantra that “all options are on the table’ for stopping Iran gaining a nuclear weapon and moving on to more definite language for specifying American military contingencies. However, the attempt to formulate a new locution evaded the efforts of Panetta and Barak.