All of a sudden the Iran nuclear story seems to have a lot of moving parts and it’s hard to get a handle on what’s going on. In no particular order, consider the following:

Last week, a story carried by Reuters, based on a leak by “a senior U.S. official,” the U.S. and Israel defense chiefs were discussing joint military exercises to prepare for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities should negotiations fail. In addition, “a senior diplomatic source” said that the Israelis provided U.S. officials with a timeline as to when they would be ready to strike Iran and that the Americans did not voice any opposition.


There were also several leaks to the media indicating that Washington had developed a new, more powerful bunker-buster bomb, already tested and confirmed able to take out any Iranian nuclear facilities. This is a significant bit of news, since Iran’s main Fordrow facility is deep underground and cannot be reached by standard bombs or missiles. Leaks also appeared about Israel’s efforts to persuade the Biden Administration to provide the new bombs to Israel.

On the other hand, there were also reports that the U.S. had turned down an Israeli request for a rushed shipment of already ordered refueling planes that would facilitate the Israeli Air Force’s ability to fly long distances, including the trip from Israel to Iran.

Some interesting comments have pointed to the imminence of a crisis. Israeli Prime Minister Bennett, President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have all been recently quoted as saying the crisis is nearing the “fail-safe” point of no return. This was a sentiment echoed by the UK foreign minister, who said the current talks “are really the last chance for Iran to sign up,” and by the new German foreign minister who said, “Time is running out.”

Yet last week CIA Director James Burns gave an interview in which he said the CIA does not believe that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to take steps to build an actual weapon although it was close to being able to do so.

Then again, last week there was also a front-page story in the New York Times about how Israel consulted with the U.S. prior to launching two major covert attacks. One was mounted this past June against a nuclear centrifuge facility and another against a missile base in September.

But the Times also said its story was based on talks with over a dozen “anonymous” Israeli and American officials (a euphemism for leaks if we ever heard one) who also spoke of growing tensions between the U.S. and Israel over their differing views about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

And there is more of this sort of back and forth. So what gives? Are we really lurching towards a military confrontation with Iran, or is this uncertain saber rattling? Are Israel and the U.S. colluding to cajole Iran by making it think it faces a formidable military power like Israel already settled on war and an even more formidable military power like the U.S. that is not quite there yet?

We think it is in the realm of possibility that the plan is to present the U.S. as a possible restraint on an increasingly off-the-reservation Israel.


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