Israel not ‘merely bluffing’ on Iran strike threat, ex-Obama official says


A former senior Pentagon official says Israel is probably not bluffing in its latest saber rattling on Iran.

“I think it is more likely Israeli leaders are preparing the Israeli public for a strike, and creating a narrative for the international community that diplomacy and sanctions have failed and thus Israel has no choice,” Colin Kahl, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011, told Al Monitor Tuesday in an interview on the front page.

“There is clearly a crescendo emerging, and there is a lot of detailed, point-by-point argumentation …laying the foundation for a potential strike,” Kahl said. .”

The Pentagon said Tuesday Israel has not made a decision yet on possible Iran action.

“I don’t believe they’ve made a decision as to whether or not they will go in and attack Iran at this time,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told journalists at the Pentagon Tuesday, Reuters reported. “With regards to the issue of where we’re at from a diplomatic point of view, the reality is that we still think there is room to continue to negotiate.”

But Israeli leaders are preparing the Israel public for a possible attack on Iran in September-October.

Tel Aviv designated 60 parking garages as bomb shelters Wednesday, amid defensive preparations for possible counterattacks, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

Israel appointed a new homeland defense chief Tuesday. Ex-Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter was unanimously approved by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s cabinet in a Tuesday night vote. Dichter was formerly a professional soldier in the elite Israeli commando unit,the Sayeret Matkal, with Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Dichter now holds the key ninth vote in previously reportedly evenly divided ‘Octet’ that will vote if it comes to it on the action.

“Despite Obama’s existing promises to use all means, including military action, to prevent an Iranian bomb, I think Netanyahu and Barak have convinced themselves that they cannot sub-contract out their security on this issue to any US president,” Kahl said.

“At the end of the day, the Israeli leadership is building the case that they can trust no one but themselves on this issue,” he added.

“Ostensibly the Americans could…say clearly that if by next spring the Iranians still have a nuclear program, they will destroy it,” an unnamed top Israeli official, dubbed the “Decision Maker,” and universally believed to be Israeli Defense Minister Barak, said in a widely noted interview with Haaretz’s Ari Shavit August 11. “But the Americans are not making this simple statement because countries don’t make these kinds of statements to each other.”

“In statesmanship there are no future contracts,” the Israeli official continued. “The American president cannot commit now to a decision that he will or will not make six months from now. So the expectation of such a binding American assurance now is not serious. There is no such thing.”

(Photo: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, hosted a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, right foreground, at the Pentagon, July 28, 2011. They are joined by Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller, center, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy for the Middle East Colin Kahl, right. DOD photo by R.D. Ward.)