Israel and the United States have reportedly entered into a secret understanding in which Israel agrees to hold off on any plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities until at least 2013. In exchange for this, the United States has undertaken to provide Israel with the latest in so-called “bunker-busting” bombs, capable of penetrating the kind of hardened underground facilities that are believed to be safeguarding Iran’s nuclear program.
As well, according to a report in today’s Maariv newspaper, Washington has agreed to sell Israel the latest in long-range refueling aircraft.
The new military equipment is believed to improve the chances for success in any attack on Iran, and to make it worthwhile for Israel to delay any plan to attack the facilities it says are intended to produce nuclear weapons that will put Israeli security at risk.
The secret understanding was arrived at in the meeting Monday in Washington between U.S. President Barack Obama and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Maariv’s Ben Caspit says, quoting unnamed Israeli and Western officials and intelligence sources.
The details of the military sale were then given to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta to work out.
The scheme is consistent with President Obama’s interest in delaying at least until after this year’s presidential election any attack on Iranian facilities, for fear of the destabilizing effect such an attack would have on the world economy and on regional security.
It also will provide an opportunity for a possible diplomatic success in talks with Iran announced this week. The so-called P5+1 talks involve the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany meeting with Iran.
The secret understanding, now leaked to the public, also raises the stakes for Iran in a military encounter with Israel and may pressure Tehran into accepting terms for guaranteeing that its nuclear program is only for peaceful uses.
Politically, it also lets Mr. Netanyahu off the hook.
For months he has whipped up the case for Israel’s right to carry out a pre-emptive attack on Iran in the name of the Jewish state’s self defence. But without co-operation from the United States in such an attack, the Israeli public made it clear it did not support him.
Now, with this understanding, and with evidence of the United States’ commitment to support such an attack (if and when it becomes necessary), the Israeli Prime Minister can put down his sabre for the moment, and still declare victory.