Saturday, August 22, 2015
The New York Times' Jodi Rudoren has published an article claiming Israel was on the brink of attacking Iran at least three times between 2010 and 2012, according to recordings released publicly by biographers of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who also served for years as Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu's Defense Minister.
Here's the headline:
The broadcast of taped recordings of Barak, which aired on Israeli television to the alleged chagrin of Barak (who claims he tried unsuccessfully to prevent their release), appears to be one more desperate tactic of those opposed to the recently-agreed nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers to make Israel seem ready and willing to conduct illegal airstrikes against Iranian nuclear and military facilities and infrastructure. All Israel needs, the report would have us believe, is the right opportunity and a longer leash from Washington and bombs would blissfully fall on Iranian buildings and humans.
reported on a Channel 2 investigation that exposed a rift in the Israeli leadership over any potential strike on Iran that had occurred in 2010. According to the story, while Netanyahu and Barak were eager to prepare the military for a potential strike on Iran, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Mossad director Meir Dagan were not, with Ashkenazi referring to an Israeli attack on Iran as a "strategic mistake." During a May 2011 appearance, Dagan, who had retired in September 2010, famously called the idea of bombing Iran "the stupidest thing I have ever heard" and "patently illegal under international law."
Furthermore, it should be noted that, though no stranger to alarmism and warmongering, Barak himself was actually actively undermining the supposed move toward war at the same time he claims he was advocating for it.
Back in September 2009, Barak, who was then head of Israel's Labor Party, told Yedioth Ahronoth that "Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel," adding later, "Right now, Iran does not have a bomb. Even if it did, this would not make it a threat to Israel's existence." Countering Netanyahu-inspired rhetoric that absurdly conflates Iran with Nazi Germany, Barak said plainly, "I don't think we are on the brink of a new Holocaust."
Speaking at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the AIPAC-spinoff think tank, in February 2010, Barak stated, "I don’t think that the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, they are going to drop it immediately on some neighbor. They fully understand what might follow. They are radicals but not total meshuganas." He further noted his belief that Iranian leaders "have quite sophisticated decision-making process and they understand realities."
The next year, Barak repeated the assessment that even a nuclear-armed Iran would pose very little threat to Israel. In May 2011, he told Ha'aretz that "[i]f Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, it is unlikely to bomb Israel," and said that "Israel should not spread public panic about the Iranian nuclear program." When asked directly whether he believed Iran would ever launch a nuclear attack on Israel, Barak replied: "Not on us and not on any other neighbor."
Later that same year, Barak told an Israeli radio station that the Israeli leadership "has not yet decided to embark on any operation," and dismissed as "delusional" that constant media speculation that he and Netanyahu were about to launch an attack.
In early 2012, during an interview with Israeli Army Radio, Barak said that Iran would most likely never decide to build a nuclear bomb, since such a decision would inevitably lead to either harsher international opprobrium and sanctions, or even military action. When asked whether the Israeli leadership had decided to launch its own assault on Iran, Barak answered, ""We haven't made any decision to do this," adding, "This entire thing is very far off." When pressed further, he said, "It's certainly not urgent. I don't want to relate to it as though tomorrow it will happen."
Granted, such denials in the media could always have been just a political and strategic gambit to reduce attention on Israeli military machinations and set the stage for a surprise assault. As former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told a Labor Party meeting in late 2011, "Every citizen in the country has to be worried that these two fools, Netanyahu and Barak, are planning an attack on Iran."
More likely, however, is the fact that no Israeli leader - not Netanyahu, not Barak, no one - will ever actually attack Iran through air strikes. The reports, the denials, the predictions, the investigations are all part of Israeli theatrics meant to scare American and European leaders into applying pressure on Iran through sanctions, sabotage, assassinations and military threats in an effort to stave off the hypothetical Israeli attack that will never actually happen.
Originally published as UPDATE XX on "The Forever Threat: The Imminent Attack on Iran That Will Never Happen."