By Ilana Freedman – September 4, 2012
While the mixed messages coming out of Washington these days are more than a little confusing to the average reader, they are increasingly alarming to those whose lives depend on America getting it right.
According to several sources, including the New York Times, the US has sent a secret message to Teheran, essentially stating that as long as Iran did not target American sites, Washington would maintain a ‘hands off’ policy should there be an Israeli attack. First reported here, the article stated that Washington used covert back-channels in Europe to clarify to Teheran that the US does not intend to back Israel in a strike against its nuclear facilities. In return for this promise, Washington reportedly requires Iran to refrain from retaliating with military strikes against its strategic assets in the Persian Gulf, where the US has both military bases and a fleet of naval vessels.
The report, which has gone viral on the Internet, was categorically denied by the White House during an interview with Reuters, in which White House Spokesman Jay Carney said, “”The report is false, and we don’t talk about hypotheticals”.
Last week, however, General Martin Dempsey, head of the US Chiefs of Staff, made it abundantly clear that Washington will not support an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites, dismissing what Israel sees as an existential threat from a nuclear Iran, with the implied warning that the US would not support Israel militarily should such an attack take place. One way or another, Iran was sure to get the message.
Over the summer, President Obama has sent a unprecedented stream of high level emissaries from Washington to Jerusalem, in order to apply the necessary pressure on Israel to refrain from a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. These visits were made by such senior officials as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
The argument made to Israel was that the sanctions and diplomacy require more time to work. The latest of these messengers is CIA Director David Petraeus, who is scheduled to arrive in Israel this week, following an unannounced visit to Turkey for talks with Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan. Once in Israel, Petraeus can be expected to reiterate the now discredited claim that “sanctions are working” and the US needs more time.