Israel has withdrawn its pledge to US President Barack Obama not to strike Iran’s nuclear sites before the November presidential election after he rejected its minimal demands for nuclear negotiations with Iran. This is reported exclusively by debkafile’s Washington sources.
In public, Israeli ministers still talk as though they believe in results from the Six-Power talks with Iran, which Thursday May 24 limped into their second day in Baghdad with the parties still miles apart. But the presidential veto has essentially cast Israel outside the loop of influence on the outcome of diplomacy.
When Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon on May 17 he was told that Obama had rejected Israel’s toned-down demands for Iran to at least to halt high-grade uranium enrichment, export its stocks of material enriched higher than 3.5 percent grade and shut down production at the Fordo nuclear plant near Qom. For six months, the Obama administration tried to sweeten the bitter pill of this rejection by bumping up security aid. The latest appropriation covered another $70 million for manufacturing more Iron Dome short-range missile interceptors.
After talking to Panetta, Barak turned to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in the hope of winning their support for softening Obama’s ruling. Clinton replied she was not involved in the negotiations with Iran and Donilon, that a personal decision by the president was not open to change.
A week of consultations followed the defense minister’s return home, during which it was decided to tear up Israel’s pledge to refrain from attacking Iran during the US presidential campaign. Wednesday, May 23, the day the Baghdad talks began, Barak signaled Washington to this effect.
It was conveyed in a little-noticed early morning radio interview with the defense minister. To make sure his words reached the proper address without misunderstandings, the defense minister’s office issued a verbatim English translation from the Hebrew:
“There is no need to tell us what to do, and we have no reason to panic. Israel is very, very strong, but we do know that the Iranians are accomplished chess players and will try to achieve nuclear capabilities. Our position has not changed. The world must stop Iran from becoming nuclear. All options remain on the table.”
As the Baghdad talks went around in circles, Israel’s military option was put back firmly on the table and on the US-Iranian chessboard.