Now that the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has made it almost impossible for US military action to take place, the spotlight moves to Israel. US officials have noted the strong Israeli criticism of the NIE encountered by President Bush during his visit to Israel on January 9th-10th and the unfavorable Israeli reaction to Washington’s emphasis on a diplomatic approach to Tehran. At the January 20th-23rd Herzliya Security Conference US visitors introduced the possibility that Israel might take unilateral action. According to our Administration contacts, the US strongly opposes any such Israeli action. US officials are concerned that, given that any Israeli air strikes would likely involved overflights across Iraq, the US would be blamed. A Pentagon official told us: “This is our nightmare scenario. We doubt that Israel could carry out this operation effectively. Events could escalate beyond out ability to control them.” Israel’s long-range strike capability has been demonstrated before at Osirak in Iraq in 1981, and the September 6th in northern Syria, However, Pentagon officials have warned Israel that an attack on Iran would be “exponentially” more dangerous given the wide geographic dispersal of Iran’s nuclear facilities and its significant retaliatory capabilities. In the January 23rd session of the US-Israeli Strategic Dialogue US officials provided assurances that the US commitment to isolating Iran was undiminished. Our assessment is that US constraints on Israel will succeed in deterring any unilateral Israeli attack.
Irancove @ February 3, 2008