The Corner

Panetta Predicts an Israeli Strike on Iran

It’s not every day that someone like the U.S. Secretary of Defense forecasts an ally’s move, but this just happened when Leon Panetta said that he believes, in the paraphrasing of a Washington Post reporter, that “there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.” Thoughts on this unusual statement:

It’s a paraphrase: For delicate statements, top officials prefer indirection and written words. It offers wiggle room and reduces tensions. Asked whether he disputed the Post report, Panetta inscrutably stated: “No, I’m just not commenting. What I think and what I view, I consider that to be an area that belongs to me and nobody else.” (Contrast this episode with Barack Obama talking about drones in front of the cameras, an indiscretion that won him trouble, including a lawsuit from the ACLU.)

It might be disinformation: In the mirror world of nuclear diplomacy, we on the outside have almost no way of discerning wheat from chaff. Panetta could be sending a signal to Tehran as opposed to telling the truth. The same applies to other news, be it assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists or sales of ordnance to Israel. Wait a decade to learn what’s really happening now.

Tehran is determined: Iran’s supreme guide, Ali Khamenei, again confirmed that nothing and no one will impede his regime from acquiring nuclear weapons, announcing that “Sanctions will not have any impact on our determination to continue our nuclear course.” I believe him. Just as the North Korean regime allowed its subject population to starve in the pursuit of nukes, so will the Iranians pay whatever price.

Israel is also determined: The Israeli leadership looks back to the Holocaust and feels the weight of its responsibility. Commenting on those top-ranking military personnel who disagree with him and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about the Iranian nuclear danger, Israel’s Minister of Defense Ehud Barak commented that “It’s good to have diversity in thinking and for people to voice their opinions. But at the end of the day, when the military command looks up, it sees us — the minister of defense and the prime minister. When we look up, we see nothing but the sky above us.”

U.S. presidential elections: Were the Israelis to attack Iran, Obama’s response could have major electoral implications. Were he to approve or (especially) join in the attack, he would scramble the elections to his advantage. Were he to condemn the Israelis, however, he would likely pay a price. 

Daniel Pipes — Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. A former official in the U.S. departments of State and Defense, he has taught history at Chicago, Harvard, and Pepperdine universities, ...

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