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A Fateful Visit: Obama         Is Close to Decide on             the Iranian Nuke Issue

Israel, Ma'ariv

By Amir Rapaport

In the end, Israel estimates, there will be no escape from an American attack on Iran to prevent the bomb – mainly if the ayatollahs' regime remains stable after the presidential elections in Iran scheduled for June. The question is what Obama thinks.


Translated by Viktoria Lymar

Edited by Steven Stenzler


19 March 2013



Neither the goings-on in Syria nor the negotiations with the Palestinians: the burning issue around the visit of the U.S. President to Israel is the Iranian nuke, and Obama is going to be required to make up his mind on the matter within a week or two. The assessment in Israel: an American attack on Iran is inevitable.


Barack Obama's visit is one of the most crucial ones in the annals of the State of Israel, because of its timing. Within a week or two, the American President will be required to make a decision as to whether he will embark on a course of collision with Iran, or allow the Iranians to keep laughing all the way to the nuclear bomb, similar to the languor the U.S. showed vis-à-vis North Korea's nuclear project. From many standpoints, the question of whether Israel is going to be under nuclear threat in a year or two years currently depends solely on the United States. 

Seemingly, the Iranian problem is just one of three security issues that are on the agenda of the presidential visit. The most urgent one is actually what's taking place in Syria. Reports came in from the country yesterday of chemical weapons used within the framework of the civil war. This is a very disturbing development: chemical weapons employed in Syria may be turned later on the common enemy for both sides – Israel.

In the defense establishment, there was not yet verification as of yesterday night of the news on the use of chemical weapons, and the media reports were examined at the intelligence level. However, in terms of that which is happening in Syria, the Obama visit carries relatively secondary importance, since Israel and the United States are coordinated on this issue completely for a long while already. 

Also on the Palestinian matter, the visit is of quite secondary importance. A wave of grassroots terrorism that intensified in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] in the recent days is attributed by security bodies to the efforts of various organizations to heat up the area because of the visit itself. Politically, the expectations of all parties for a breakthrough are at ground level. At maximum, the visit will create a mechanism which allows them to stall for more time without a third intifada – nevertheless, it won't lead to a faster and substantive negotiation.

Back to the Iranian subject: the timing of the visit, the day after the appointment of Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon as defense minister, is not ideal. Ya'alon took his first day in office, between the ceremonies, for several meetings with the Chief of General Staff and the top brass of the Defense Ministry. No more than that. However, he received hefty handover books from his predecessor, Ehud Barak. Fortunately, Ya'alon is familiar with the Iran issue in-depth. He's been dealing with the subject matter for the last four years as minister for strategic affairs, and is even managing contacts with U.S. officials in this respect. This time, his position is different, as are the circumstances: in about ten days, a summit will convene in Kazakhstan of the countries negotiating with Iran on the diplomatic understandings. The end of the meeting is known in advance: the Iranians won't surrender and won't give up their nuclear program. Maybe they'll make up just some new lie, on the claim that the project is suspended. 

It is reasonable to assume that looking forward to Obama's visit, all the Israeli intelligence bodies have prepared files with sensitive material on the extent of the threat and the progress of the Iranian nuclear project. In general, the intelligence services in Israel and the United States see the picture eye to eye. The question is only regarding the interpretation. Israel will use the visit to demand Obama to increase the threat on Iran beyond talk and economic sanctions, which are not working. Before the air strike, it's still possible to resort to a naval blockade in the Persian Gulf, for example. The immediate price will be a surge in world oil prices. 

In the end, Israel estimates, there will be no escape from an American attack on Iran to prevent the bomb – mainly if the ayatollahs' regime remains stable after the presidential elections in Iran scheduled for June. The question is what Obama thinks. 

The security establishment bothered to hold at Ben-Gurion airport a magnificent exhibition of the means of anti-missile defense developed in Israel – among other things, with U.S. funding. It wasn't done merely to thank Obama for the money he's given so far, but rather to ensure he continues to pump dollars. On the agenda – there's a danger of cuts in the generous American funding allocated to the project of developing the Arrow 3 missile, stopping funding for procurement of additional Iron Dome batteries, and flattening of another joint project called "Magic Wand." 

Will the sword of the U.S. budget cuts be raised over the Israeli anti-missile defense projects as well? The answer to this question will be affected by the visit, too.


Original Hebrew article:


Photo credit: Oliwer Weiken/EPA