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Israel and Iran to go to war?



Obama interferes in Israeli elections. Does he also use taxpayer money to pay for it?

Iran shows every sign of trying to hide its nuclear program from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Barack H. Obama turns out to have offered Israel a crude bribe, not to stop a war, but to put it off until the American people (as he hopes) re-elect him. Israel and Iran will very likely go to war, sooner or later.

Iran tries to clean up

On Monday, the government of Iran told the United Nations that they would welcome inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency into their country. But several diplomats from other countries, all officials of the IAEA, now say that Iran is hiding something. Moreover, satellite photographs show that Iran is removing large amounts of topsoil from the site that they offered to let the UN inspect. The purpose: to remove hints that they were testing a neutron initiator, a device that sets off an atomic or hydrogen bomb. These developments clearly worry the IAEA. But no one at the IAEA will give his name to any of these reports.

On the same day that this news broke, the man now holding office as President, Barack H. Obama, did something that made relations between America and Israel even more frosty.

Obama offers Israel a bribe

The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported yesterday that Obama had offered to give Israel several modern air tankers and “bunker-buster” bombs, if Israel would delay attacking Iran until next year. (Agence France Presse picked up the Ma’ariv story but gave no original link.) The air tankers (based on the Boeing 767 airframe) would greatly extend the range of the F-15 and F-16 fighters that the Israeli Air Force flies. (The IAF is still flying 707-analogue KC-135 tankers that have been in service since 1972.) In theory, a heavier bomb would give the Israelis more time to crack even the hardest underground targets.

The Lavi Affair

IAI Lavi B-2 prototype at Muzeyon Heyl ha-Avir, Hatzerim, Israel. 2006.

IAI Lavi B-2 prototype at Muzeyon Heyl ha-Avir, Hatzerim, Israel. 2006. Photo: User Bukvoed/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License

But in fact this offer is a sick joke. To understand how sick, one must review a sorry chapter in the history of American-Israeli relations. This was the aborted development of the Lavi multi-role jet fighter. Israel Aerospace Industries, beginning in 1980, sought to replace the aging A-4 attack planes and Kefir jet fighters. (IAI derived the Kefir from the French-built Mirage 5 fighter after Charles de Gaulle refused to sell any more planes to Israel.) At first, the USA supported the Lavi project and even let Israel buy components for it, under its Foreign Military Sale (FMS) credit program. (This is the extent of the aid that America provides to Israel. FMS credits are, in essence, merchandise credits that Israel uses today to buy planes and spare parts for its Air Force.)

IAI rolled out at least two prototypes in 1986. Then in 1987, the Americans pulled the funding, because:

  1. The Americans resented Israel for changing the design from an A-4 upgrade to a direct competitor to the F-16.
  2. The Americans were afraid that Israel was getting a lot of advanced American technology and might transfer this technology to third countries. (One report, later denied, said that Israel sold a Lavi prototype to the Chinese, who then used it to develop their own multi-role fighter. Sources close to the Chinese program have since denied that they took anything from the Lavi program.)
  3. The Lavi was costing a lot of money, in dollars and in shekels, to develop. This sort of thing happens all the time whenever a country develops a new weapon.
  4. Once the Lavi was in production, General Dynamics, builder of the F-16, would now have to compete with IAI for sales, in addition to losing direct sales to Israel.
  5. The Department of State, and especially its Arabist faction, said that the Lavi program unfairly biased American foreign relations in favor of Israel.

The government of Israel hotly debated whether to continue the Lavi program on their own. On August 30, 1987, by a vote of 12 to 11 (with one member abstaining), the Israeli cabinet canceled the Lavi program. This was a failure of nerve by Israel. Israel still had many socialistic features of its government, and so the old “guns-for-butter” debate tilted toward butter. (To be fair, many IAF officers felt that the Lavi would never make a better F-16, and that Israel might as well stick with a tried-and-true design, even if they had to buy it from America.)

Israel did not lose everything by canceling the Lavi. They still got enough technology to launch their own spacecraft in the 1990s. But they still hurt their economy, and would have every reason to resent the Americans for pulling the funding as they did. Had the funding continued, Israel might have Lavi fighters today.

Such is the context in which Barack Obama made his offer of modern air tankers and heavy bombs as a bribe for Israel not to go to war with Iran immediately.

A denial and an empty promise?

Today the White House flatly denied that they had offered any such bribe to Israel. But Ma’ariv also reported that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had spoken openly of an American attack against Iran. (NOTE: Both links to Ma’ariv are in Hebrew. Any of several free services can translate them into English.) The Associated Press also reports that the diplomats are stalling for time.

Given the historical context, very few things that Obama could do would infuriate the Israelis more. Nor is Iran likely to change its mind. Economic sanctions have merely made Iran intransigent. Today their ambassador to France told the French Foreign Ministry that Iran would never stop enriching uranium.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said it best: Israel will not go to war with Iran within days, or even weeks. But it will not wait years, either. In fact, CNAV sees no reason to believe that Israel will wait until after the election. Obama says that the diplomats can still stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, if Israel will only wait. Netanyahu says that Israel cannot wait much longer.


Leon Panetta’s disguised promises are either empty, or a hint that America might go to war directly with Iran. Obama might do that to make sure that he wins a second term, if he can be sure that the Jewish and evangelical votes he would win would be more than the anti-war votes he would almost certainly lose. Quite apart from whether Obama can do such a thing under the Constitution, Israel is not likely to stake its own survival on Obama’s political calculus.

See also this related article on Israel and Iran going to war.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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Why are you not up in arms about Israel’s own illegal nuclear program? The only reason Iran and other middle eastern countries want a nuke is because Israel has one.

Fergus Mason

“Shiah tradition says that the Twelfth Imam will come back at a time when the whole world is at war.”

Not exactly. In fact it’s the Book of Revelation that says that, although obviously it’s talking about Jesus rather than the Mahdi. Twelver Shias simply believe the Mahdi will return and unite the world under god.

Twelver Shia is actually one of the most doctrinally moderate branches of islam. It’s generally far less fanatical than most Sunni schools. Ahmedinijad being a twelver is not a problem.

Ahmedinijad himself isn’t much of a problem really. He’s an incompetent loudmouth who likes to talk big because he doesn’t really know what else to do. Iranians call him “the mayor of Tehran” and they don’t mean it as a compliment. Ayatollah Khamenei doesn’t let him have much actual power, either. If Iran DID have a nuclear weapon it wouldn’t be Ahmedinijad who got to decide when to use it.


So what you’re saying is that it’s okay to break international law as long as the people breaking it are people of whom you approve?

Don’t get me wrong here: I fully support efforts to prevent Iran getting the bomb. I also support efforts to remove nuclear capability from countries who haven’t signed up to the non-proliferation treaty – and the one country in that category is Israel.

Your lopsided view of international relations helps nobody.

Fergus Mason

Israel isn’t your ally, Terry. Alliances aren’t a one-way street. What does the USA get in return for its support of Israel? Dead sailors and Jonathan Pollard?

Fergus Mason

“Israel is the front line of defense against the pan-Arab nationalism in religious dress that is Islam.”

No, that simply isn’t true. Israel is a self-interested state (which of course it’s quite entitloed to be) that has managed to get the USA shackled to its own aims. Israel has done nothing for US security. Neither islam nor pan-Arab nationalism (they’re not at all the same thing) is a direct threat to the USA. Your only strategic interest in the Middle East is an uninterrupted supply of oil, and Israel is not helping you to guarantee that.


No it isn’t. America’s unstinting support for Israel is the #1 reason why the USA is hated by Israel’s opponents. By turning a blind eye to Israel’s wanton abuse of international law, America opens itself to retaliation. If you choose to ignore the law, you are implicitly legitimising lawbreaking by others.

Fergus Mason

“And for no reason other than our mere existence.”

Nonsense. The main reason Iranians don’t like the USA (and the UK) is that in the 1950s we deposed their government and installed the corrupt Shah. Amazingly enough they resent that.

Fergus Mason

“You say that Islam is not the same as pan-Arab nationalism.”

Correct, because it isn’t and to claim that it is is just demented. The most populous muslim nation, Indonesia, isn’t Arab. Neither is Iran. Neither is Turkey, Nigeria, Bosnia, Albania, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, anywhere else ending in -stan or Bangladesh. In fact MOST muslims aren’t Arabs.

“You say that neither thing (which are the same thing) is a threat to the USA. Tell that to the three thousand victims of the nineteen Hashshasheen of Nine-Eleven.”

Neither of these things is a threat to the United States. The reason the USA is hated in the Middle East is its unconditional support of Israel. Other than that the Arabs quite like you.

Nathan Bickel

rpeh: Re: YOur March 9, 2012 at 1:35 am comment:

I find your premise to be in error. You, incorrectly state:

“….The only reason Iran and other middle eastern countries want a nuke is because Israel has one.” No! It isn’t the “only” reason.

In short, you generalize. Furthermore, look to Terry’s excellent comment answer. How can instruments of defense be illegal in the defense of a nation’s own preservation?

Finally, never compare Israel to the Islamic nations of rage and terror. There is no comparison. To do that, is to insult the very principle and notion of peace and decency.

Fergus Mason

Israelis have had their fair share of rage and terror, too. Where do you think the Arabs learned about car bombs and suicide explosions? That would be Irgun and the Stern Gang, the original Middle Eastern terrorist groups.

Nathan Bickel

Fergus Mason: Re: Your March 9, 2012 at 10:57 pm comment:

You stated:

“Israelis have had their fair share of rage and terror, too. Where do you think the Arabs learned about car bombs and suicide explosions? That would be Irgun and the Stern Gang, the original Middle Eastern terrorist groups.” [Your words]

I find your response not only inaccurate, but basically dishonest, in that you apparently attempt to equate Israel with her surrounding Muslim neighbors, among whom have a significant number of terrorists.

Furthermore, you overlook the reality that Israel does not go on the offense against its hostile “neighboring” Arab states, unless it is attacked and is forced to defend itself.

Please be honest with yourself and ask the point blank question:

“Does Israel daily fire rockets upon its neighbors?” I think you are well aware of the answer. And, of course, it is “No!” But, the Muslim terrorists fire rockets from their soil on a regular basis, upon Israel soil.

Fergus Mason

“How can instruments of defense be illegal in the defense of a nation’s own preservation?”

I suppose you approve of Israel’s biological warfare programmes too?

I’ve never understood this blind support of Israel from certain segments of the US population. They are NOT YOUR FRIEND. They spy on you, lobby your government into acting against its own best interests, carry out terrorist attacks against US facilities (Op Susannah, in case you think I’m making that up; the surviving terrorists were decorated by the Israeli government) and “accidentally” napalm your ships. You get nothing in return.

Fergus Mason

“Well, I don’t think the Israelis have any biological warfare program(me)s.”

Oh, they almost certainly do. It’s no secret that they’ve refused to sign the Biological Weapons Convention (just like they refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty…) and the Congress Office of Technology Assessment has Israel classed as a biological weapons state. It’s unlikely they have smallpox available but they are believed to have weaponised anthrax and botox. They have a chemical weapon capability too, both mustard gas and persistent nerve (G and V agents.)

Fergus Mason

“no one has yet investigated who gave the ELINT ship USS Liberty orders to steer thirteen miles away from land that was about to be involved in a shooting war”

Doesn’t need investigated, Terry; the US Navy gave the orders, and they were quite entitled to. It’s no mystery who sent her there.

“And they certainly would not dare let any foreigner climb to the top of Mount Carmel, and look down on Ramat David Air Force Base”

Why not? I don’t see what harm it could do.

Fergus Mason

“you are, by your own avowal, an atheist.”

I am indeed. Bear in mind that this rules out my criticism of Israel being motivated by antisemitism or sympathy for islam. I’ve found to my cost that any public condemnation, however mild, of Israel is likely to attract accusations of supporting Hezbollah, hating jews, wanting to see islam take over the west and any number of other ridiculous claims.

I won’t say that I have much sympathy with Israel’s “right to exist,” because putting a jewish state on Arab-occupied land in the Middle East was among the stupidest acts of the 20th century. However it’s there now and a large part of its population were born there; they have nowhere else to go. We have to deal with the world as we find it and Israel is part of that world. Obviously the ideal situation is a unitary secular state in the entire territory of Mandate Palestine, but the extremists on all three sides won’t let that happen, so it is essential that a two-state solution happens. Unfortunately the current Israeli government won’t allow that either, and seem intent on denying the Palestinians a state while expanding settlements, so naturally I condemn them. As long as Israel seeks to expand it will never have peace, so unfortunately unqualified support of Israel by people like you not only causes hatred of America in the Middle East (believe it or not they quite like you apart from that) but harms Israel itself.

The current blathering about an attack on Iran is a perfect example. Israel can indeed attack Iran, perhaps even successfully. However by attacking a state which has not attacked any of its neighbours in centuries (and in trying to develop nuclear weapons is doing no more than Israel itself has done) they will throw away almost all of the remaining sympathy they have in Europe and the Middle East. This may not seem important from an American viewpoint, but you are far away. It’s us who are potentially within range of Iran’s weapons (and Israel’s, for that matter) and we really don’t appreciate the interference, well-meaning as it certainly is.

Nobody in Europe is much worried by the prospect of Iranian nukes. Iran knows that if they attack Europe, the UK and France have the capability to burn them down to the bedrock. Given Likud’s well-known hatred of the UK, the Israeli “Samson Option” – if they’re going down, take as much as they can down with them – is a much bigger worry. It’s therefore likely that if Israel is in a war and looks like losing, and there are indications that they are preparing for a nuclear release, a Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarine will be ordered to send the Dimona missile facility a bucketful of sunshine.

Fergus Mason

“they could risk absolutely no foreigner gazing on their prime air base from above”

There’s not much anyone can do about that there days, is there? There are FAR bigger threats to airfield security than a tourist with a camera. In any case, what are you going to find out with your zoom lens? That Israel has F-15I and F-16I fighters? Wow, call CNN.

By the way, I’m curious: where did I say Israel was a totalitarian state? It’s certainly a bit on the aggressive side and has a flexible interpretation of international law, but it’s largely democratic.

Fergus Mason

“if you have evidence, send it to me”

Ha ha, no. That would be illegal.

Fergus Mason

“Then don’t waste my time with talk about evidence that you “may not,” that is to say cannot, produce.”

I’d suggest that you look at the reports of the US Congress OTA. They’re open source and they list Israel as a biological and chemical weapons state.

Fergus Mason

“My experience with liberals like yourself is: “Democracy equals pacifism.””

Two massive errors for the price of one. I’m a liberal in the correct sense, not the American one you mean; I’m not left wing. Also I’m hardly a pacifist except in the sense that I know what war is like and don’t see it as a choice to be taken lightly. Which is what you seem to be doing. I mean look at the title of this article: “Israel and Iran to go to war?” That’s not on the table, and it would be a global disaster if it was. What we’re talking about is “Israel plans to attack Iran for trying to develop a capability Israel itself has.”

Tonto USA

To deny that Israel and Iran are not going to tangle is absurd….it’s only a matter of when. Appeasement and reticence never worked with Hitler, Mao, Pot Pol or any other butchers, what makes anyone think that it’s possible with murderous “black robes” who are islamic butchers? The 2 most vile names I can even think to call someone is “muslim” or “democrat”….both represent human filth and bigotry to me. One can get no place with either one. Iranian leadership has demonstrated, on the very bodies and blood of it’s own citizenry, that they will not be deterred by any sanity or civilized humanistic behavior. The fact is that the repression of Iran’s professed and in-articulated but known goals is not JUST Israel’s problem.
Iran wants nuclear weapons. They want to destroy Israel….not so much that they hate Israel and what Israel represents (yes they do!) but they want to blast Israel to pieces as a “visual aid” to demonstrate their status and a world leader and to win complete control of the Persian Gulf, and thereby, complete control of all M/E oil….that’s the true aim….with the goal being the advancement, by force of the totalitarian slavery of islam.
What really needs to happen is an all out “crusade” against islamism. Problem being, that to most muslims, government and islam are one and the same….like socialism and the secular religion of democrats are the same. Only through a unified effort of the civilized and sane world against both of these human abominations can a return to sanity and peace be reobtained. Don’t wait for any islamic states to get off their butts to repress Iran. The last one to try that was Iraq and after 8 years of war, and 8 million dead, there was no net result, except death, on either side. It’s really up to Europe and the US to assisst Israel. Israel is the most effective force, with the exception of the US, to attempt to surgically destroy Iran’s nuclear and missile capability. The Intellegence Israel has probably gathered is probably the most accurate as well. As the “strike force”, Israel is probably the best choice. For logistics and support, every nation on earth that uses Gulf oil, has a vital stake in providing support to Israel in terms of money and material….and should get off their butts and provide it and the MORAL support to execute an attack (without mercy).

Fergus Mason

“It’s really up to Europe and the US to assisst Israel.”

If Israel wanted European help they should have had a bit of a think before forging European passports for use by Mossad hit teams. Europeans have our own reasons for preferring Iran not to get nuclear weapons (although it’s no disaster if they do, really) but after their recent antics nobody in Europe is going to lift a finger to help Israel.

“The Intellegence Israel has probably gathered is probably the most accurate as well.”

I shouldn’t think so. US and UK intelligence agencies are long past the stage of being astonished at how sloppy Israeli intelligence gathering and analysis usually is. They’re generally (not always) very good at finding people, but utterly abysmal at working out intentions and doing strategic analysis.

Fergus Mason

“They want to destroy Israel”

Oh nonsense. If there’s anyone Iran wants to destroy it’s the Gulf states, because they’re rival oil producers and also because they’re Sunnis who backed Saddam in the Iran/Iraq war (as did the UK and USA.) Israel, of course, backed IRAN in that war, much to the disgust of Reagan and Thatcher. Israel is NOT an oil producer and isn’t even on the Persian Gulf.

Ahmedinijad’s posturing and rhetoric about Israel is just PR. Iranians aren’t Arabs and have no investment in the Palestinian issue. Iran has the largest Middle Eastern jewish population outside Israel itself and I believe there are jewish deputies in the Majlis. The current hysteria is just two Middle Eastern states playing Middle Eastern power games with each other. There is no existential threat to anyone.


Do we need another war? Seems to me that we, through our CIA and other secret stealth agencies have changed Iran’s leaders several times, or maybe my history sources are wrong.

Anyway, it is clear that we have been in the middle east for over half a century screwing up all countries there for control of their oil.

I agree that fanatical religions (including Christians) have been a source of war since the dawn of civilization but since Iran has not overtly attacked anyone for a couple of centuries, I don’t see them as big a threat as Israel or the U.S.

To quote Rodney King…..”can’t we just get along?”

If the U.S. is to be the policeman of the world (which I am totally against) we should be totally neutral to all countries with an edict that we will attack any nation that overly attacks another nation. That includes the U.N. and NATO. It worked when Iraq attacked Kuwait…. and I can dream, can’t I?

Nathan Bickel

egarners: Re: Your March 9, 2012 at 11:19 am comment,

Don’t you think that you are playing the extremist card by saying that the Christian religion is a fanatical religion and lumping it with fanatical and murderous Islam?

I will grant you the woeful Spanish Inquisition and the abuses of the Catholic (Christian) church during the dark ages and during and after the Lutheran and Protestant Reformation, but to compare the Christian religion to Islam, is not very logical or reasonable, considering the totality of history between the two religions. It’s like attempting to compare an apple to a red beet. One is easily accessible by picking off a tree while the other has to be laboriously dug from the ground.

As a footnote, to underscore my aforementioned assertion, please compare the teachings of Christ to the violence supported by Mohammed.

Fergus Mason

“The Americans were afraid that Israel was getting a lot of advanced American technology and might transfer this technology to third countries.”

Well yes, they were worried about this, because Israel has a history of doing it. The people who have denied the sale of the Lavi plans (the Lavi was a heavily modified F-16, by the way, not really a new design) are IAI and the Chinese. The position of the US and UK intelligence agencies is that it happened. This is seen as ungrateful, since the Lavi was oficially a “joint” project; in effect it was a gift of technology and funding to Israel, because the USAF never had any intention of buying the Lavi. It is also inaccurate to say that GD were scared of having to compete with it because the USA never had any intention of letting Israel sell it for export, due to its US technology content.

In 2000 the USA had to pressure Israel into cancelling a sale of advanced AWACs systems (based on US technology) to China. There is an ongoing scandal caused by Israeli insistence on upgrading China’s fleet of armed UAVs. In fact Israel is now China’s second largest arms supplier after Russia.

Israel has a long history of selling technology to potentially hostile states. This is causing much concern in the UK at the moment because Israel is a planned customer for the F-35. A lot of the F-35’s stealth technology is UK-supplied, and frankly the RAF (and the USAF) would rather Israel didn’t get it because of where it’s likely to end up. However sadly there’s no way to make the US congress see sense about Israel, at least until another Liberty incident happens.

Nathan Bickel

Terry –

Somehow, I think that people incorrectly think that Israel perpetrates hostility and does its part to foment war in the Middle East. They conveniently overlook that the tiny state of Israel is the unwilling recipient of bombs across its border on daily basis for several years. Yet, those who would make out Israel to be the aggressor are unwilling to admit all this.

Fergus Mason

Has it ever occurred to you that Israel might get attacked less if it worked in good faith to find an answer to the Palestinian issue? Without a solution to that Israel is never going to have peace, and in the long run it probably won’t survive. It’s long past time to stop building settlements and start negotiating.

Fergus Mason

“Arabs don’t think like that.”

I’ve had extensive contact with Arabs, and I’m reasonably familiar with how they think. You’re referring to their dislike of “losing face,” and of course an excellent example of that is how Syria will never accept Israel’s seizure of the Golan Heights. However don’t forget that they are also enthusiastic negotiators and bargainers. It is entirely possible for negotiations to lead to an acceptable solution.

What’s YOUR proposed solution, Terry? Is it the status quo, or for Israel to permanently annex the entire Occupied Territories? Because neither one will ever lead to peace. Only a two-state solution can now do that.

Fergus Mason

“Judea and Samaria will permanently become a part of Israel”

That’s just not going to happen. There will be a Palestinian state or, in the long term, there will be no Israel. Neither the status quo nor continued settlement expansion are options. At the end of the day, if Israel tries to permanently annexe the Occupied Territories Europe will stop them. We’re easily strong enough to do that.

“a lot of things will have to happen in-between, some of them not very pleasant.”

If they’re not very pleasant don’t you think it would be a good idea to work to stop them happening?

“everybody, and I mean everybody, will have to choose up sides. And that goes for you, too.”

This may be your opinion. It’s not mine.

“Neutrality is not an option.”

Again, I’ll decide my options, not you.

Fergus Mason

“who was born there”

Born WHERE, by the way? You’re aware that different Arab nations, and even tribes, have different cultures? They’re all within the framework of a general Arab culture, just like we’re all within the framework of a general European culture, but comparing a Shia from Beirut to a Wahabbist from Riyadh is like comparing a guy from an Alabama trailer park to a physicist from Berlin. Their worldviews are barely recognisable as part of the same culture.

Fergus Mason

“King Hussein had the bad sense to conspire together with Jamal abd al-Nasr (“Gamal Abdel Nasser”) of Egypt to erase Israel for good.”

As I understand it Israel launched an attack on Egyptian troops who were deployed in a defensive formation, then attacked Syria and seized the Golan Heights (which have now been ethnically cleansed and settled with European immigrants) and finally attacked the Jordanians in Jerusalem. There is no evidence of a credible Arab plan to attack Israel in 1967 and plenty of testimony from former Israeli leaders that they wanted a war and planned to take territory as a primary objective.

Fergus Mason

“As far as I’m concerned, Judea and Samaria belong to Israel”

As far as the world is concerned they don’t. The world is not going to tolerate permanent annexation.

“right of conquest in a war of self-defense”

There is no such right, of course; in fact territorial gain as a result of war is expressly forbidden by the UN Charter.

“the historical title that is clearly theirs.”

What historical title? Israel has only existed since 1948 and at no time has it legally owned the West Bank and Gaza.


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