Iran attack decision close

2012-05-17 20:34

Jerusalem - A private door opens from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in central Jerusalem directly into a long, modestly furnished, half-panelled room decorated with modern paintings by Israeli artists and a copy of Israel's 1948 declaration of independence.

It contains little more than a long wooden table, brown leather chairs and a single old-fashioned white projector screen.

This inner sanctum at the end of a corridor between Netanyahu's private room and the office of his top military adviser, is where one of the decade's most momentous military decisions could soon be taken: to launch an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear programme.

Time for that decision is fast running out and the mood in Jerusalem is hardening.

Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of international pressure, saying it needs the fuel for its civilian nuclear programme. The West is convinced that Tehran's real objective is to build an atomic bomb - something which the Jewish state will never accept because its leaders consider a nuclear armed-Iran a threat to its very existence.

Adding to the international pressure, US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said this week American military plans to strike Iran were "ready" and the option was "fully available".

The central role Iran plays in Netanyahu's deliberations is reflected in the huge map of the Middle East hanging by the door of his office. Israel lies on one edge, with Iran taking pride of place in the centre.

Experts say that within a few months, much of Iran's nuclear programme will have been moved deep underground beneath the Fordow mountain, making a successful military strike much more difficult.

As the deadline for a decision draws nearer, the public pronouncements of Israel's top officials and military have changed. After hawkish warnings about a possible strike earlier this year, their language of late has been more guarded and clues to their intentions more difficult to discern.

Top in lockdown

"The top of the government has gone into lockdown," one official said. "Nobody is saying anything publicly. That in itself tells you a lot about where things stand."

Last week Netanyahu pulled off a spectacular political surprise, creating a coalition of national unity and delaying elections which everyone believed were inevitable. The manoeuvre also led to speculation that the Israeli leader wanted a broad, strong government to lead a military campaign.

The inclusion of the Iranian-born former Israeli chief of staff and veteran soldier, General Shaul Mofaz, in the coalition, fuelled that speculation - even though both Mofaz and Netanyahu deny that Iran was mentioned in the coalition negotiations.

"I think they have made a decision to attack," said one senior Israeli figure with close ties to the leadership. "It is going to happen. The window of opportunity is before the US presidential election in November. This way they will bounce the Americans into supporting them."

Those close to Netanyahu are more cautious, saying no assumptions should be made about an attack on Iran - an attack with such potentially devastating consequences across the volatile Middle East that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas even went so far as to predict in an interview with Reuters last week that it would be "the end of the world".

Israelis particularly fear retaliation from Iran's proxy militias - the Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon and the Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip. Both are believed to possess large arsenals of rockets which could hit major Israeli towns and cities.

Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem told Reuters in February that an Israeli attack on Iran would set the whole Middle East ablaze "with no limit to the fires". "Gone are the days when Israel decides to strike, and the people are silent," he said.

The Israeli Prime Minister and his key allies repeat for public consumption the mantra that economic sanctions against Iran must be given time to work and that now is not the time to speak about military options.

Top officials explain the new coalition on purely domestic grounds, saying it was needed to tackle the thorny and divisive issue of pressing Orthodox Jews into military service - in other words, that its formation has much more to do with the agenda inside Israel than abroad.

Time running out

Diplomats are divided. "I think the Iran thing is a red herring," said one senior Western envoy. "This is 98% about domestic politics". Others are less convinced.

Mofaz himself refuses to speak about military action against Iran, even in the theoretical.

A military veteran with almost 40 years' operational experience, whose office in the Israeli parliament displays a poster of Israeli war planes flying low over the Auschwitz concentration camp, he scoffs at the idea that his Iranian descent gives him special influence on an Iran attack decision.

He derides the idea any serious official in the know would talk to visiting journalists about such a sensitive military subject.

But behind the carefully evasive language of top officials, basic facts are clear. Time is running out. Iran's nuclear programme - regarded by Netanyahu as an existential threat to the state of Israel - will soon be buried deep enough underground to render an Israeli attack impossible.

The Jewish state's options are narrowing.

"I think they've gone into lockdown mode now," the senior Western diplomat said. "Whatever happens next, whatever they decide, we will not find out until it happens."

There are indeed those who see in Israeli posturing over Iran only bluff intended to press world powers into harsher sanctions and avoid war. Some military experts openly doubt how much damage Israel could inflict. The risk of a fiasco is big.


Perhaps the strongest clue as to Israel's real intentions is to be found in Netanyahu's private office, behind his desk. Officials say the Israeli premier was strongly influenced by his father, who died last month at the age of 102.

Benzion Netanyahu was a distinguished scholar of Jewish history and his strong sense of the past lives on in Benjamin, who laments to visitors that "most people's sense of history goes back to breakfast time".

On a shelf behind Netanyahu's desk, along with pictures of his family, is a photograph of Winston Churchill. Netanyahu admires the British wartime premier because he saw the true dangers posed by Nazi Germany to the world at a time when many other politicians argued for appeasing Hitler.

The parallels with modern-day Iran are obvious and Netanyahu is explicit about the dangers he believes are posed by militant Islam: as he puts it, its convulsive power, its cult of death and its ideological zeal.

But Churchill, although eloquent on the dangers posed by the rise of Nazi Germany during the 1930s, ultimately failed to prevent Hitler's ascent to power, the world war he unleashed or the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered.

Netanyahu, those who know him say, is determined to avoid going down in history as the man who shirked his opportunity to stop Iran going nuclear.

  • Ryadh - 2012-05-18 01:40

    Israel attacking Iran!!!......hahahahahahaha....bwahahahahahah...Bibi is only modestly good at political tricks...deception...lying....and playing on the messianic fears of the collective society of morons who voted him in!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 06:01

      Unfortunately you've fallen for the lies of the Iranian regime, and you're blinding yourself to their plainly stated intentions: to see the destruction of Israel, denial of the Holocaust which was the single biggest attempt at human genocide in the history of humankind, and support for the stoning to death of women. These are no laughing matters.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 06:02

      Plus you say and do NOTHING about the slaughter and maiming of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of innocent Muslims right in front of your nose by the Jihadists and unelected dictators in your midsts.

  • Afsar Khan - 2012-05-18 06:13

    @Larry you obviously are making assumptions about Islam, if you would like to know more about Islam and how close it is to Christianity (you would be shocked) i would be more than happy to share with you?

      Larry - 2012-05-18 07:06

      Thanks but no thanks Afsar. I am sure you are a very nice man and I appreciate your kindness. I am in my later years and have opened my eyes to many things in this life. The one conclusion I have come to is that religion and gods are an abomination in this world of man, with the Islamic religion being chief offender of basic human rights and intollerance and religious violence.

  • Afsar Khan - 2012-05-18 06:24

    Israel will not attack Iran! Iran as a nation are great, a very intelligent people this the western powers fear, the Iranians have a rich history (ancient Babylon) and have always been technologically advanced, comparing Nazi Germany to Iran is plain stupid, and how come all comments are from the Israeli side and not one from Iran???? this article lacks factual basis dont be duped, the writer provides no proof and loads of speculation ridiculous!!!! hey what do you know alot like German propoganda about Jews....

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 15:32

      Afsar, it's important to understand the difference between the Iranian regime and the Iranian people. The Iranian regime adjusts elections to hold onto power. It's illegitimate. It has hijacked the Iranian state from the Iranian people, for its own benefit, to the detriment of the Iranian people. It supports the stoning to death of women. It funds Jihadists and unelected dictators who have slaughtered and maimed hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims the world over. It denies the occurrence of the holocaust, the single biggest attempt at human genocide in the history of humankind: six million people exterminated. They are truly oppressive. There is no place for them in Islam or the world that is becoming new. They stand for everything humanity should not be.

  • Fidel - 2012-05-18 07:22

    It is a sign of how much Israeli politics has been corrupted by the 40 years as an occupying power that its supporters here can calmly discuss attacking a state that they are not at war with. The rest of us react with shock and horror to the idea of even discussing it.

      Carlos - 2012-05-18 10:18

      Fidel, why do you conveniently ignore the fact that Iran's real leader - the Ayatollah constantly preaches the total destruction of Israel? Your blind hatred for the West obscures your view of the intentions of radical elements in the Islamic world. Or do you condone murder as long as it's people you don't support?

      Fidel - 2012-05-18 10:50

      Honestly, if you have a point of view, at least try to base it in reality. The 'threat to Israel' is a risible argument based on some dubiously-translated comments Ahmedinejad made to his base support of uneducated theocratic loons. Considering the Israeli expansion, who is wiping who off of the map? Or do you live in a fantasy world where you say what you wish had happened and then end up believing it to be the truth? Don't get carried away by your own rhetoric and insert words into someone's post with great glee and alacrity when these words are patently wrong.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 15:39

      There is no "occupying power". This is fiction made up to support an illegitimate idea. Israel was invaded twice in the 1960's. Full military invasions. She managed to survive and push the invaders back. By the rules of war, she got to keep the territory from which she pushed the invaders. She could have gone much further, but decided not to. This rule is important. It's meant to dissuade neighbors from invading each other. Moral of the story: don't invade your neighbor. By extension, your idea of an Israeli expansion is also fantasy. Manipulation is a more accurate description. The territory gained by Israel from repelling those two invasions belongs to Israel. She is however willing to trade them in a peace treaty with the Palestinians. The exchange is that the Palestinians acknowledge the right of Israel to exist and chooses peace. It's the same theme over and over again: the Palestinians, incited and armed by oil-rich autocratic neighbors, are being called to live side-by-side in peace with Israel. When you get this, you'll feel peace inside you too.

      Fidel - 2012-05-18 16:20

      That Israel's occupation is criminal has not been in doubt since late 1967, when Israel’s leading legal authority, international jurist Theodor Meron, advised the government that its plans to initiate settlements in the occupied territories violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, a core principle of international humanitarian law, established in 1949 to criminalize the horrors of the Nazi regime. If you wish to be wilfully ignorant then good luck to you.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 18:15

      Fidel, again, when you quite people you have to provide the source. Without this it's just your interpretaion and opinion. There is no occupation. It's a myth.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 18:24

      The future that is dawning is one without unelected, oppressive regimes in the Middle East inciting and arming the Palestinians for their own selfish aims. This has to be good, for everyone. Unfortunately Fidel you've blinded yourself to this future. It's going to be hard for you to see and appreciate it the longer you hold those funky beliefs.

  • Afsar Khan - 2012-05-18 07:35

    @ Larry God is great, and its never too late for salvation. You cannot make statements persecuting Islam as a violent religion without actually understanding the religion first, now i could say the bible preaches violence and genocide! if you would just read the bible you would see! example story of Samson in your bible says Samson killed 600 philistines(palestinians!) with the jaw bone of an ass! its in your bible... and look at the way palestinians are being treated today! maybe the bible is responsible for the Israel palestine conflict? look at facts and ask for proof !

      Larry - 2012-05-18 09:06

      Afsar. god is a myth and biblical texts, new, old or the Koran are from another time where a different reality and intelligence existed. The word "Palestinian" is a very new construct, post 1967, and there is no connection with ancient philistines of the bible. Look, we are getting off the point. I do not want Israel or the USA for that matter to attack Iran. The consequences are very scary and unknown, BUT I do not want Iran to develop nuclear capability even more. This is the dilemma. A nuclear armed Iran will supply its proxy partners Hamas and Hisballah to do its dirty work and achieve its goals of destroying Israel. This is the reality that Israel is faced with and this is why Iran must desist, or Israel must act.

      Lanfear - 2012-05-18 09:56

      That is the point Afsar Khan, for me anyway. All three the Abrahamic religions [Islam, Christianity & Judaism] are violent, prejudiced, bigoted, biased, hate-filled and want to force their beliefs onto the rest of the world [ok Judaism isn't into converting people, but both Islam and Christianity want their religion to be dominant]. I agree with you, the bible is full of violence and hate, and so is the qu'ran. But that is ok, people can believe as they will. The single biggest problem I have with Islam is not terrorists or bombs or even women's rights, it is the forced convertions, the putting to death anyone who changes religion, or becomes and atheist or agnostic or a spiritualist, anyone who dares to question. It is the efforts of, for example, British Islamists that want sharia law for themselves in a secular country, and so forth. Christianity is much the same, though not quite as militant anymore. The Israelis and the Palestinians are both wrong and both to blame for that conflict. And both play a propaganda game with the world to gain support for their own cause(s). Frankly, I don't have any sympathy for either of them. As to Iran, well I really don't see Israel attacking them soon. Nor they Israel. Such a conflict could escalate into a world-wide issue of "taking sides" and even war. Not something anyone with an ounce of logic would want.

  • vincentdavince.malapane - 2012-05-18 08:20

    This is where we view really movies.kwaaks.

  • Jaba - 2012-05-18 08:37

    How short people's memories are... Whenever people talk about the Israeli question, it inevitably ends in a chicken and egg style argument about who occupied where illegally first. The bottom line is, if Hamas and the other political groups in the disputed regions began acting more like civilised political parties rather than terrorists with the sole aim of killing Israeli civilians (remember, if Israel had the same aim this whole issue would have been put to bed years ago due to their military might ie the killing of all the Palestinians) then Israel would not have a leg to stand on and the US and the west would have no choice but to put pressure to bear on Israel to make concessions to the now truly peaceful and democratic Palestinians. Israel has every right to use what ever it needs to fight Palestinian terrorism in self defence. I have never and can never support any terrorist organisation who supports the killing of innocent civilians no matter how just they believe their cause. When the Palestinians side renounce terror there will be peace... and that is the sad fact.

      Fidel - 2012-05-18 09:02

      Why should Hamas act civilised when the Israeli settler movement has acted like barbarians, stealing land daily and demolishing Palestinian homes and fields with the support of IDF? If someone were stealing my land, I'd resist forcefully, in whatever manner I could, rather than standing outside the thief's office with a placard for the next 50 years? @Moderator I thought this was a comment area but it turns out to be an agreement-only area. Please show me where the dissent corner is so I can go stand there and not get in the way of the circle-jerk in progress.

      Lanfear - 2012-05-18 10:04

      @ Ziyaad - perhaps YOU should learn some history and stop listening to pro-Palestine propaganda! The Jews did come from that region originally. In fact, the Jews and the other middle-eastern ethnic groups such as the Arabs and Palestinians are all related! They are all Semitic peoples originally! The Jews were scattered by the Romans, and yes, a goodly number of them did move to Israel from Europe during the last hundred years, but their ancestors still owned some of that land long before the Palestinians. There have always been Jews in Israel. So once again the question arises, how far back does one go to determine "ownership" of land? This question haunts South Africa too. And before you call me pro-Israel Ziyaad, I think what the Israelis are doing is cruel and unjust. But the Palestinians are no better. As I said in a comment above, both sides are to blame for the conflict and both sides play propaganda games. So listen to both sides and try to come to a rational and logical conclusion of your own, not some rabid propagandist piece of drivel that either side use to obtain supporters for their cause(s). @ Fidel - oh I see, an eye for an eye is the way to make a better world for everyone? Why is always a case of "but they do this, so why can't we do that?!" When will people learn that two wrongs don't make a right!

      Larry - 2012-05-18 10:06

      Ziyaad, your HISTORY and FACTS are limited. Eight hundred thousand ARAB JEWS from Algeria spanning to Iraq were expelled from their ancestral homelands in Arab countries, with little more than the clothes on their backs. This happened from late 1930's to 1952. Their property and landholdings were stolen and they escaped and settled in Israel. This is the real Nakba. Today, Israel is made up of 60% Arab Jews and 20% Arab Muslims, with the remainder being European Jews. You know very little.

      Fidel - 2012-05-18 10:36

      @larry How edifying to get an ad hominem post with nothing about the issues involved or the points I raised. You clearly didn't read my response properly and are just using whatever enters the constraints of your mind to formulate an already prejudiced opinion. Your hysterical gibbering seems a bit off.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 15:43

      Ziyaad, the longer you propagate these faulty, biased beliefs, the longer the Palestinians will suffer, at their own hands. Is this what you want?

  • Ryno - 2012-05-18 09:09


  • Lanfear - 2012-05-18 10:09

    I always wonder, and noone yet have given me a satisfactory answer, why it is that time and again the oppressed becomes the oppressor? The Jews were oppressed, yet now they turn around and do the same. The Afrikaaner in South Africa was much the same, oppressed by the British, then turned around and became oppressors themselves. And there are more examples of this throughout history. Is it really the way most humans think? Tit for tat, eye for an eye, "you did this to me so now I will do this to you" mentality? If so, then there is little hope for us as a specie indeed, for then it means that we are really locked into a terrible cycle of violence, revenge, violence, revenge, ad infinitum.

      Larry - 2012-05-18 10:53

      Even though the Jews of Israel have secure borders and military power, they are still oppressed by its Arab and Islamic neighbors for being a Jewish nation in the midst of Islam. The oppression of the Palestinians is a result of unresolved issues from the 1967 war AGAINST Israel. Pre 1967, the West Bank and Gaza was annexed and occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively, with no complaint from Palestinians who did not yet exist as a national identity. They were Jordanians and Egyptians. After Israel was attacked on all sides, Israel repelled its attackers and conquered territory for the purpose of leveraging this territory for peace. This worked well for Egypt who regained the Sinai and for Jordan who made a similar peace deal which hold to this day. The territory of the West Bank was to be the Palestinian state which was rejected by the Arabs of the region since 1947 because acceptance thereof would mean the acceptance of Israel as well. The West Bank will remain in its current status until the Palestinian leadership and peoplen acceed to Israel's terms for peace. Israel has won this right. Not the other way round.

      Jaba - 2012-05-18 10:59

      look Lanfear - I don’t see Israel as an oppressor. Israel wants peace but they have no partner for peace as yet. Israel is surrounded by a hundred million people that hate them – and the Palestinians know thus thus they refuse peace at every opportunity. You conveniently leave out that fact that: In 2000 (and on many other occasions), Israel offered the Palestinians nearly everything they demanded... and the offer was met not with a counteroffer, but with Jihad. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Clinton offered: 97% of the West Bank (with the remaining 3% to be made up from Israeli territory) The entire Gaza Strip Military control over East Jerusalem Many Palestinian refugees to return to Israel proper, with the rest being settled in the new state of Palestine. There would be a $30 Billion fund to compensate refugees.

      Jaba - 2012-05-18 11:00

      According to chief US negotiator Dennis Ross, Yasser Arafat rejected it all, and did not offer new ideas of his own. Today Hamas reject the same offer as their objective is to kill all the Jews (at least they have the nerve to tell the truth as written in their aims which anyone can google). When the Palestinians renounce terror and start living in peace with Israel there will be peace – simple as that. BTW (to other commentators) The Jews are the same Jews that lived in the area 4000 years before the birth of Islam. And even if they were to adopt a religion does that make them bad? Is a new convert to Islam not allowed to feel at home in Mecca & Medina? On your topic though... why should Muslims have 50 countries and nations but according to you the biggest crime of the last century is the birth of one Jewish state the size of the Kruger National park?

      Fidel - 2012-05-18 11:29

      Unfortunately Jaba, the "Palestinian Papers", as revealed by Al Jazeera (not denounced by Israel), have shown Israeli intransigence when it comes to the Israeli'Palestinian issue. The Palestinians Authority (Fatah/PLO) made all kinds of compromises to the Israelis which were rejected by the Israelis, because the zionist doctrine requires that the Eretz Israeli should be for Jews only. “Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible . . . the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it had been “the policy of the government for a really long time”. Tzipi Livni

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 15:47

      The problem is the Palestinians have programmed themselves to attack Israel no matter what. They even program their children at Kindergarten to do this. If you want peace and prosperity for them, you're better advised to encourage them to choose peace, program themselves for peace, and live side-by-side with Israel. You distort reality with indoctrinations derived from inflamed websites and ideologies. The longer you do this, the more the Palestinians will suffer. By their own choice. They're choosing to be martyrs. Martyrs inflict their own pain on themselves, to present a pained image to the world and garner sympathy. It's a tragic manipulation. Far better to choose peace, and work for peace.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 19:07

      Wrong again. The Arab High Command boycotted the consultations.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-18 19:38

      The Arab High Command boycotted consultations. You say they were''t consulted. Now you're saying the UN screwed up because the Arab High Command refused to discuss the matter.

  • Gert - 2012-05-22 10:49

    Imagine the situation where in 2 years time a terrorist group with no specific boundaries to identify themselves with, delivers a nuke onto Israel without warning. No direct link to Iran exists but the world can only speculate. Israel is destroyed and Iran and friends are rejoicing. That is the threat Israel sits with (and other western states also) There is no alternative but to take out those facilities. It will take attacks over and over again to destroy all facilities and then land troops will have to inspect the damage as to make sure its all gone before this war can end. Iran will build up a new project again after the war and then in 10 years time the process will be repeated. Iran must make peace with itself first and accept Israel as a legitimate state. Iran is the cause of this war to be.

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