This email was forwarded by Harvard Middle East expert Sara Roy. No real comment required:
I pass this along without making any claims to verify its accuracy. From a NYC-based Israeli source, who just returned from Tel Aviv, where he met with senior IDF and Likud figures, including Netanyahu. He is one of the Likud “princes” whose father was one of Menachim Begin’s closest personal friends. He is very close with Benny Begin.
During a one week recent stay in Israel, he conferred with a military grouping that he is a part of. They are generally opposed to the Iran war adventure and have a very active position within the current IDF hierarchy. The incoming IDF chief of staff, Gen. Galant, is a very independent-minded soldier, with his own strong views on the folly of an Iran attack. He is no pacifist. He was in charge of the commando units that carried out the Gaza Flotilla operation. He also ran a 16-man commando operation into southern Lebanon, tageting Hezbollah sites, which went afoul. Hezbollah had the capacity to intercept transmissions from Israeli surveillance drones that were coordinating with the commando team, and Hezbollah was able to stage an ambush, that killed 16 members of the IDF team. While the incident was totally hushed up, there is a serious IDF internal probe underway into the failed mission. Despite these setbacks, Galant was made the new COS of the IDF.
There is a serious conflict between MOD Barak and the outgoing COS Ashkenazi, over the way that Barak handled his replacement, appointing Galant months before the February 2011 turnover. Now, the Knesset has shortened the wait time before a retired IDF general can enter politics, from three years to 18 months. Ashkenazi is already planning a challenge to Barak for the chairmanship of the Labor Party in the next election, and he will have a great deal of support in that effort.
Source had a meeting with Netanyahu, and came away concluding that he is completely irrational, and stubbornly refusing to listen to advice, even from Benny Begin. Netanyahu is aware of the weakened political position of Obama, after the Nov. 2 midterm elections, and he plans to take advantage of this weakness to launch a hit against Iran. He has solicited and won the backing of Sarcozy in this. Bibi had several private meetings with Sarcozy. Sarcozy has agreed to support Israel in an attack on Iran, and the recent Anglo-French military alliance, forged during Sarcozy’s recent visit to London, could be part of this French support for the Israeli attack on Iran. Shades of Suez 1956? An Israeli-French-British entente? Sarcozy came to this arrangement with Netanyahu, in opposition to the European Union’s war-avoidance plans, which involve an approach to Iran, offering lucrative economic deals, if they freeze their nuclear program and remove the pretext for military action. Germany has emerged as the leading channel for this approach to Iran, and Sarcozy, in part, is reacting against Merkel’s role in this EU effort.
The Israelis, during the Bush period, developed and partially tested a new bunker-buster weapon, which my source described as a “semi-nuke.” This was tested in the past in Nevada and in South Africa, but it still is in the final testing phases, even though approximately 100 of these bombs have already been produced. The concern is that the fallout is strictly contained, and this requires some further refining. At least one of the Iranian sites targeted by Israeli planners is close enough to the Iraq border, that they are deeply concerned that no fallout crosses into areas where there are American forces. F-22 fighter jets “loaned” to Israel by President Bush have now been taken back by Obama, and so the French will provide top of the line Mirage jets to Israel. The French are also providing mid-air refueling for the dozen planes (backed by 250 aircraft altogether) that will carry out the bombing raid.
U.S. intelligence is aware of this situation, and Gates is deeply concerned that the situation has slipped out of any U.S. controls, due to indecision by Obama. This is a factor in Gates’ determination to leave the Administration before August 2011.
For Israeli war planners, the biggest fear in not whether the operation itself will succeed or fail. The biggest concern is what will happen the day after. It is already factored into the equation that there will be very strong reactions to such an Israeli attack. The stock markets around the globe will crash, and other chaos could result. Israel will be clearly blamed and even further ostracized for the attack.
Israel is well aware of the Iranian retaliatory capabilities through Hezbollah and Hamas. They know that Iranian support for both groups has tripled in recent months. The strike plan developed by Ashkenazi involves attacks on southern Lebanon and Gaza, as the planes take off for their targets inside Iran.
Israeli war planners are aware of, and are factoring in several other possibilities. First, there is a belief that Syria could make a military move to take back the Golan Heights as Israeli forces are focused on these other targets. There is also a possibility of a military coup in Egypt, to prevent the succession of President Mubarak’s son Gamal. Egypt could move into certain areas of the Sinai still held by Israel.
Israel is also aware of the danger of Pakistani strikes against Israel, in retaliation for the bombing of Iran. A French delegation is in Pakistan, in an effort to derail any Pakistani retaliation against Israel, which, of course, could involve the use of nuclear weapons, which would wipe Israel off the map.
Netanyahu does not have the support of even the Begin faction of Likud for this action. And if the attack takes place after February, when Gen. Galant takes over as COS of the IDF, he will refuse. Source suggests that Netanyahu has significant respect for Bill and Hillary Clinton, and they could possibly dissuade him from taking this reckless action. There was last week an eight-and-a-half hour meeting between Bibi and Hillary, and when she came out she said, “We still don’t see eye-to-eye.” The prospect of some kind of political deal or shakeup in Israel, in which Kadima could come into a grand secular coalition and kill this crazy war scheme, is not very real. Source believes that Avigdor Lieberman has sufficient power to block any move to oust him. He is too powerful to dump. Benny Begin met with him at length to get him to tone down the rhetoric. He was not particularly successful. He has built up a tremendous power base among the one million-plus Russian emigre.
When might such an operation be launched? My source believes that, if it does not happen before December 10, it will next be on the table for March or April 2011. Netanyahu is considering, but has not finalized in his mind, to order strikes in late November 2010. All IDF vacations have been suspended as of this week; and IDF officers studying abroad have been summoned home temporarily. The line circulating around is: “No repeat of the Yom Kippur War when Israel was caught by surprise.”