Richard Silverstein 
February 3, 2012
David Ignatius published an alarming story in today’s Washington Post , in which he quotes Leon Panetta predicting an Israeli attack on Iran in “April, May or June.” Buried deeper within the article is an even more chilling passage:
Administration officials caution that Tehran shouldn’t misunderstand: The United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israel’s population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel’s defense.
In the context of the article, which portrays an Israeli first strike against Iran, we can only explain this statement as announcing to Iran that if it counter-strikes against Israel that the U.S. will join in the war against it. That would help explain why the U.S. is amassing a massive amount of firepower in the Gulf including perhaps a record three carrier task forces preparing for God knows what mischief.
I can’t say clearly enough that what the U.S. has signaled in Ignatius’ report is that if Iran is attacked, it may not strike back against its attacker. If it does, the U.S. will rain down hellfire and damnation on it. This is frightening beyond measure. I’ve never known the U.S. to lay down such a principle which virtually assures our joining in a war against Iran. Israeli policymakers will be delighted to read these words. Hawks like Bibi, Barak and Bogie Yaalon (from whom, more later) will be sharpening their spears and pruning hooks, not to mention their Jericho IIs and U.S.-supplied bunker busters.
Of course, there’s always a chance that Panetta is bluffing, using psy ops to spook the Iranians into believing they will face two implacable foes in war if they don’t abandon their nuclear ambitions. If we are bluffing, I’m afraid it won’t work. Iran’s leaders are hardened, seasoned veterans of a 1979 Revolution and eight year war with Iraq in which they lost 1-million citizens. They are inured to suffering of the sort we can inflict on them.
All of this means that Iran’s leaders are liable to shrug all this off as the price of doing business in a nuclear-weaponized world. So what happens when Iran stands tall against such threats and says: “Is that all you’ve got?” At that point, we’ve got nothing left but war. And we’ve talked ourselves halfway into war through the belligerency of our rhetoric and threats.
Ignatius regurgitates more Israeli propaganda already disseminated in the New York Times that predicts Iran will mount at best a faint reply to an Israeli “surgical attack” on its nuclear facilities. At most a few Hezbollah missiles and 500 Israeli deaths (to quote an infamous Barak prediction). All the while ignoring the hundreds of Iranian missiles that could attack Israel and likely would if Israel attacked. The idea that Israelis believe they have the right to launch a first strike against Iran, while Iran has either no right or no will to reply is so far-fetched as to be almost delusional given the nature of Iran, its leaders, and its military.
Here’s some more Israeli delusion:
“You stay to the side, and let us do it,” one Israeli official is said to have advised the United States. A “short-war” scenario assumes five days or so of limited Israeli strikes, followed by a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.
I can’t tell if this is certifiably delusional or merely a typically Israeli macho bluff. But whatever it is it’s incredibly dangerous if any policymakers takes this remotely seriously.
Bronner quotes another typically narcissistic Israeli interpretation of the security threats it faces:
General Kochavi [IDF Aman intelligence chief] also estimated that Israel faced 200,000 missiles and rockets aimed at it from its enemies.
For the life of me, I don’t know where he gets such figures. Hezbollah may have somewhere in the range of 10,000-20,000. Gaza militants may have several thousand. Iran has perhaps in the hundreds of missiles capable of reaching Israel. That’s it. Is he including Turkey’s missile capabilities in that number? Even if so, would Turkey have 150,000 missiles in its inventory? I doubt it. In addition, including Turkey in that count means the IDF has now declared the former as a formal military enemy, when I hadn’t heard of any outright hostilities between the two that would justify such an evaluation.
Even more strange is Kochavi’s neglecting to mention the 200-400 Israeli nukes pointing at those same enemies along with a massive missile inventory of Jericho and other missile types capable of sending them anywhere in the Middle East. Isn’t it convenient whenever Israel wishes the world to shed tears on its behalf, it omits the offensive threat that it poses to its neighbors.
Annually, the Herzliya conference features the creme de la creme of Israel’s political-military-intelligence echelons boasting about Israel’s achievements on the world stage. It’s Israel’s version of Davos minus any discussion of issues having even a faintly progressive aspect. That means leaving out social and economic justice, peace, environment, civil rights, etc.
Israeli minister Bogie Yaalon, one of Israel’s leading hawks on the question of Iran war, dropped a bombshell into the political debate by claiming, during his conference presentation, that the Iranian missile base destroyed by a massive explosion several weeks ago was testing a new intercontinental missile prototype with a 6,000 mile range. For those who are geographically-challenged, that’s long enough to hit the U.S.
Yaalon and his faithful scribe, Ethan “Eytan” Bronner, made sure American readers understood the “threat ” this personified:
The Israeli, Moshe Yaalon, a deputy prime minister and minister for strategic affairs, said the blast at a missile base of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps hit a system “getting ready to produce a missile with a range of 10,000 kilometers.”
“That’s the Great Satan,” he said, invoking a name Iran has used for the United States. “It was aimed at America, not at us.”
Mr. Yaalon was trying to make the point that the Iranian nuclear program  is a threat not only to Israel  but to other nations, creating “a nightmare for the free world.” He said that it was a concern to Arab states as well as to the United States and Israel.
You can say something on Bronner’s behalf: at least he includes this passage, which in effect reveals that some U.S. officials believe Yaalon is a liar (though they use language far more diplomatic than that):
American officials said they believed that Mr. Yaalon’s assertions were at best premature, and at worst badly exaggerated.
Though one Iranian-American expert on Iran’s military programs does deride Yaalon’s claims. It should be pointed out that this source, USC engineering professor Muhammad Sahimi  (Wikipedia article ), is by no means a friend of the Iranian regime:
This is total nonsense. Iran has said many, many times that it is not developing, and has no interest in developing an intercontinental missile. This is another bit of lies and propaganda by Yaalon to present Iran as a worldwide threat…
My high-level Israeli source also called Yaalon’s claims “exaggerated” and said they were “probably meant to frighten the American public.”