As noted in the news section today, Israeli intelligence is now hyping IAEA findings from back in August that say Iran has on several recent occasions used the 20 percent enriched uranium – the highest it has and the portion of the program which most riled hawks in the West – to manufacture fuel rods for peaceful medical research in possible cancer treatment. Anonymous Israeli officials are telling select members of the press that this information has resulted in an easing of Israel’s timetable for attacking Iran, but this explanation seems disingenuous.
The Israeli officials claim that their own intelligence has recently proved compatible with the IAEA’s findings in this regard, and that’s why the Israeli leadership has dialed back their war-mongering. But the highest Israeli officials, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, started dialing back the war-mongering in September only after strong and blunt signals from the Obama administration made it clear that no amount of “red line” rhetoric was going to force America’s hand for a war.
The first was statements made by America’s top military official, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who reiterated that the US would not be “complicit” in an Israeli strike. The other incident occurred when Israeli press reports came out saying the Obama administration sent a surreptitious message to Iran promising not to back an Israeli strike, as long as Tehran refrains from attacking American interests in the Persian Gulf.
At the time, Israeli officials didn’t mention anything about Iran’s peaceful allocation of uranium. Instead, they rambled about sufficient US military build ups in the Gulf and effective economic sanctions. “Israel retains its right to make sovereign decisions and the United States respects that,” Barak said. “However, one should not ignore the impressive preparations by the Americans to counter Iran on all fronts.” When these first signs of Israel “dialing back” the push for war were publicized, it was a dramatically abrupt shift, like a light switch.
Israel is widely understood to have overplayed its hand in trying to push the US to war with Iran. And now that their position has officially changed, it seems like this admission about peaceful uranium allocation is an excuse in order to avoid the embarrassment of admitting they lost the poker game with the Obama administration. Again, they are claiming the shift is a consequence of information that Iran is actually using the uranium for peaceful medical purposes, as promised, but they had this information long before the shift took place.
One implication of these developments is that it shows how much of a manufactured threat the Iranian nuclear program has been all along. How can the threat be a ticking time bomb with a short fuse that will soon mean the destruction of Israel one day, and the next day it’s something that doesn’t even need to be in the headlines? Iran doesn’t present anywhere near as large a threat as US and Israeli leaders have let on. But pretending it does provides Israel with a benefit: As former CIA Middle East analyst Paul Pillar has written, “the Iran issue” provides a “distraction” from international “attention to the Palestinians’ lack of popular sovereignty.” If every high-level diplomatic meeting with the Obama administration focuses on Iran, Israel can continue to rob Palestinians of land and rights unencumbered.