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That denial may not seem significant in itself, as the administration would hardly confirm that it was responsible for the leak, while declining to comment would be the same as an admission.
More notable, though, is that by early this week some Israeli analysts no less weighty than Ben-Yishai had taken a different tack on the Foreign Policy article.
Ehud Yaari, one of Israel’s most senior commentators on Middle Eastern affairs, scoffed in The Times of Israel that Perry’s report “simply does not make any sense” and was another of his “cloak-and-dagger patchwork stories aimed at undermining the state he intensely detests.”
Yaari asked how Azerbaijan could possibly provide Israel with airbases for striking Iran when
Iranian missiles can quite easily knock out those airbases as well as the huge Azeri BP oil terminal near Baku, which is the lifeline of the country’s economy. Tehran leaders are on record stating that they will retaliate forcefully against any state that will provide bases for an attack against it.
In another article The Times of Israel cited two Israeli security experts who similarly dismissed Perry’s claims. One, Shlomo Brom, said they were “utterly baseless. Azerbaijan is a small country that borders on Iran. It just doesn’t make sense they would help Israel attack them. It would be suicidal.”
To sum up: Perry indeed has an intense animus against Israel—having warned, for instance, against the emergence of “Jewish Hezbollah”—and it is also true that small countries like Azerbaijan generally do not want to infuriate a much more powerful, ruthless neighbor.
But even if the Foreign Policy article is basically Perry’s concoction and the administration is not behind it, it remains the case that the media has been awash with delegitimations of any Israeli action against Iran. In addition to the congressional report, the New York Times reported last month on a classified Pentagon simulation game forecasting that an Israeli attack would spark a regional conflagration and could cost hundreds of U.S. casualties; the Times has also run a series of stories claiming U.S. intelligence and even the Israeli Mossad still are unsure Iran wants to build a bomb at all.
When you combine all this with open statements by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and by Obama himself about the supposed ineffectiveness and bad consequences of an Israeli attack, the impression of an orchestrated campaign remains. That means Israel still may have to choose between putting its fate in the Obama administration’s hands or going into action very much by itself.
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