Internal US Debate On Iran Strike Plans

The recent spate of leaks and reports from Washington about whether Israel will, or should, take military action against Iran, and what that would mean for the US, is a reflection of deep divisions on the matter inside the Bush administration, Israeli diplomatic and defense officials said Sunday.

The officials said that the two sides of the argument, the “hawkish camp,” led by US Vice President Dick Cheney, and the “dovish camp,” led by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, are leaking assessments about Israeli intent to further their own agendas, and in this regard using Israel as a “pawn” in their own political battles.

For instance, one official said, the recent remarks made by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen to the effect that an attack on Iran and a “third front” would be bad for US interests were aimed not merely at deterring Israel from action, but also at “handcuffing” those inside the administration who are supportive of military action.

One Israeli diplomatic official said that as the debate rages in Washington, it was clear that Israel would be unable to take military action without a green light from the US.

“Everyone understands that we could not take action without US approval,” the official said, “both because we would need to fly through airspace controlled by the US, and we would need their help in dealing with repercussions from any attack.” The most direct air route to Iran is through Iraqi airspace, which is controlled by the US.

“We would need their help in carrying out the attack, and also afterward,” the official said.

“We would have to deal with possible military action from Hizbullah and Syria, and also diplomatic fallout. Don’t expect the world to clap if we attack Iran, and as a result oil prices spiral from $140 a barrel to $300 a barrel.”

The official said Israel would need US diplomatic cover to deal with the world’s condemnation, and possibly even sanctions, in the aftermath of a raid.


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