Reports are coming out that the U. S. and Israel are on the same page that Iran has not yet decided to build a nuclear weapon. I find this hard to believe, both that Israel and the U. S. agree, and that Iran has not yet decided.
Till very recently, there have been three significant issues dividing the U. S. and Israel about Iran.
First is a purely operational one — the fact that the U. S. has superior ability to strike Iran and thus can delay longer. Israel has a more limited window to bomb before Iran enters what Israel calls a” zone of immunity,” when an attack won’t be able to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon. Since Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent meeting with President Obama, there have been reports that Obama promised Israel more re-fueling tankers and bunker-busting bombs. My sense is that this upgrade would narrow the gap between American and Israeli capability, but not eliminate it.
Second is the trigger event for an attack. The U. S. says that it wants to stop Iran from actually making a bomb, Israel says that it wants to stop Iran from having the ability to make a bomb.
Third is the analysis of Iran’s thinking. Since 2007, the U. S. National Intelligence Estimate, the consensus of our intelligence agencies, has been that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program and has not decided to re-start it. The Israeli view has been that Iran has decided to make nuclear weapons and is moving forward.
Now we’re hearing that Israel has changed its view on the third issue, Iran’s intent. This just rings false to me, and I wonder if these reports are coming out because Israel believes that everyone expects it to attack soon, and it needs to send such contrary messages to lower those expectations and regain some element of surprise.
I say this because even if Israel believes Iran hasn’t decided, that still doesn’t solve issue two — Israel’s determination that Iran not have the ability to make a weapon. Under that criterion, an Israeli attack could come any day.