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Obama Warns Netanyahu

Haaretz: 'Obama Warns Netanyahu Not To Surprise Him By Israeli Attack On Iran'

Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin: 'International Community May Have Less Than A Year For Diplomacy Or Sanctions To Stop Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons'

IsraCast: 'At Upcoming Meeting In White House, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu Now Likely To Tell U.S. President Barack Obama That Time Is Running Out For Preventing Iranian Bomb'

Barack Obama | Benyamin Netanyahu

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a senior official to Jerusalem to warn Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to surprise the U.S. with an attack on Iran's nuclear installations. The American warning came after a Netanyahu emissary traveled to Washington to meet with National Security Adviser General James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile the IDF's Commander of Intelligence has crossed the technological threshold and could start producing weapons grade uranium, enough for a nuclear bomb within 'a number of months to one year'.

'Don't surprise me by an attack on Iran' - that reports Haaretz was the message conveyed by a senior U.S. envoy to Israel's Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Previously, a Netanyahu envoy reportedly traveled to Washington to discuss America's upcoming nuclear dialogue with Iran. The Israeli envoy was said to have met with the U.S. National Security Adviser General James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Netanyahu and Obama are due to meet in the White House on May 18th yet the U.S. leader did not wait until then to clarify his position. The newspaper report indicates there are different assessments in Jerusalem and Washington over the urgency of the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel. There is also Israeli concern that Iran, as it did to the European nuclear negotiators, will succeed in stalling the U.S. while it advances to 'breaking out'  and going nuclear.

There is also Israeli concern that Iran, as it did to the European nuclear negotiators, will succeed in stalling the U.S. while it advances to 'breaking out' and going nuclear

The Israeli assessment is that Iran has already crossed the technological threshold and can producing weapons grade uranium from within a number of months to one year. In light of this, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have spoken of the need Washington to set a time limit for the nuclear dialogue with Tehran. The problem is there are different assessments about the urgency of the Iranian nuclear threat. Although the U.S. now believes that Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons (after the Bush Administration created  the opposite impression by releasing a National Intelligence Estimate that spoke of Iran suspending its nuclear weaponization unit), the U.S. does not see the danger as imminent as does Israel. When asked to comment on when Iran could go nuclear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently admitted: 'We don't know who to believe'. Nor has Barack Obama repeated the vow of his predecessor George Bush that Iran will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons. Running in the recent Israeli election, Netanyahu has said just that. Last month on Holocaust Day, the Israeli Prime Minister also declared: 'The deniers of Holocaust will not be allowed to perpetrate a second Holocaust!'

In a closed-door briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, IDF Intelligence commander Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin stressed that time is swiftly running for stopping Iran. In an annual assessment, the general and other intelligence officers revealed how the Iranians are conducting a crafty approach for getting the bomb. It boils down to the international community having  about a year or less for  diplomacy or sanctions to stop the Iranians relentless drive to acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran is now quantities of fissile material for the production of low grade enriched uranium of just over 4% which does not violate its NPT commitment.

In other words, Israel should pay in Palestinian coin for support in blocking Iran going nuclear

However, Iran has already crossed the technological  threshold and has the capability to break out and suddenly start producing enriched uranium of 93% that is required for manufacturing a nuclear bomb. Iran could also do this within 'a short time'. (At a previous briefing, Gen, Yadlin spoke of a 'number of months to a year for Iran to produce enough of this enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon.) By adopting such a policy Iran is careful not to cross any international red lines that would incur more sanctions by the U.N. Security Council. However, the intelligence commander warned there could be no doubt that the Iranian leadership was pushing a national program to acquire nuclear weapons.

The IDF intelligence estimate also discussed what it called 'the mounting struggle' between moderate Arab states and the Islamist Iran and the fanatic radical movements of Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel was not 'at the focus' of this confrontation that has revealed that not only the Jewish state but also the moderate Arab regimes feel threatened by a nuclear armed Iran. Gen. Yadlin referred to Iran's strategic goal of achieving hegemony over the Middle East. The possibility of building a coalition between Israel and the moderate Arab countries is also a policy objective to be explored further by Obama and Netanyahu - the problem is that the Obama administration is exploiting this aspect as a lever to pressure Israel on the Palestinian track. Gen. James Jones the U.S. National Security Adviser is the latest American official to speak of a linkage between Israel's readiness to resolve the Palestinian issue and the Iranian nuclear threat. In other words, Israel should pay in Palestinian coin for support in blocking Iran going nuclear.

The last time, the U.S. pressed Israel hard was to let Hamas run in the Palestinian elections which backfired

For a military expert like Gen. Jones, a U.S Marine no less, to make such a ludicrous comparison appears to be the epitome of political expediency. On the contrary, at their recent meeting in Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly conveyed his concern over an ascendant Iran to Netanyahu. There is a similar sentiment in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iran's neighbors in the Gulf. They worry, as does Israel, that President Ahmadinejad will stonewall President Obama while the Iranian centrifuges do in fact produce that weapons grade uranium for the nuclear warheads of Iran's existing ballistic missiles. Or that the Obama administration will make a deal with Iran at their expense. Moreover, Gen.Yadlin disclosed that the Egyptians are now trying much harder to block the smuggling of Hamas, Iran's ally, into Gaza. Egyptian forces are operating more effectively as far afield as the Sudanese border, deep in Sinai and along the Philadlfi Corridor, their border with Gaza.   

Former P.M. Ariel Sharon (Photo: Amit Shabi)

In any case, the U.S. has made abundantly clear that despite its economic crisis at home, it also plans to press forward on the Israeli-Palestinian track; its special high-powered envoy George Mitchell means business. Just how hard will Obama press Israel? The most obvious issue are the unauthorized outposts on the West Bank. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had committed to removing them so Obama can urge to honor its commitment - and then there is new building on the West Bank particularly around Jerusalem. At his meeting with Mubarak, Netanyahu spoke of the need to get the Palestinian talks going again and that is obviously the position he will present in the White House. Another pressure point could be the IDF roadblocks on the West Bank that are essential for blocking Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel. The last time, the U.S. pressed Israel hard was to let Hamas run in the Palestinian elections which backfired and to the surprise of former Secretary of State Rice, Hamas won the election and later proceeded to expel the more moderate forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza in a bloody coup.

From the Israeli perspective, a new president is sitting in the White House who views negotiation and engagement as the panacea for international disputes, with the exception of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and rebels threatening to take over Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Netanyahu's challenge will be how to model a Palestinian foreign policy that will keep the negotiating track open while not ignoring the underlying reality of the Hamas terrorist threat from Gaza, an impotent Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the West Bank and a fanatic Iran moving at full tilt to acquiring nuclear weapons.

David Essing

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