On Tuesday EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced that the group of six global powers—permanent UN Security Council members the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany—were resuming nuclear talks with Iran at an unspecified time and place.
She announced it just as Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in Washington trying to convince the U.S. leadership that neither diplomacy nor sanctions were coming anywhere near stopping Iran’s push to nuclear weapons.
Ashton had earlier—on February 14—received a proposal for talks from Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. On Tuesday she said, “Today I have replied to Dr. Jalili’s letter….” What opportune timing.
And what a further blow to Israel.
Typical headlines have been saying Netanyahu told President Obama on Monday that Israel hasn’t yet taken a decision on attacking Iran. Yet, as described here and here, an “unnamed American intelligence official” has conveyed a different impression to Israel’s Channel 2 news.
Channel 2 reported on Monday night that the official said, “U.S. intelligence services believe that, in principle, Israel has already made the decision to bomb Iran.” According to Channel 2, the official warned that such an attack would entail thousands of casualties and spark a regional war or even World War III—in short, an all-out catastrophe. An official Israeli source dismissed these statements as “scare-mongering and psychological warfare.”
Just as there is a dissonance between the mainstream version—which says Israel hasn’t yet decided—and this apparent desperate attempt to bypass the Israeli leadership and scare its population silly via its most popular news channel, there is a dissonance between Obama’s words this week and what we read elsewhere.
In his AIPAC speech on Sunday: “I firmly believe that an opportunity still remains for diplomacy—backed by pressure—to succeed.”
And in Tuesday night’s news conference: “[Iran] understand[s] that the world community means business. To resolve this issue will require Iran to come to the table and discuss…how to prove to the international community that the intentions of their nuclear program are peaceful.”
Meanwhile IAEA chief Yukiya Amano says Iran has “tripled” its monthly production of 20-percent-enriched uranium since the IAEA’s previous report in November. That was the report that was seen as dramatically confirming Israel’s insistence over the years that Iran had never stopped working on the bomb.
Amano also expressed serious concern about the IAEA being denied, again, access to Parchin—the site where Iran has “built a large containment chamber” to “conduct high-explosives tests” that the IAEA considers “strong indicators” of nuclear-weapons development. That was according to November’s report. What’s going on in the chamber now? No one knows.
No wonder administration officials are so worried Israel will attack and trying to scare the Israeli people out of their wits about what will happen if it does. Seemingly it would make more sense for the administration—and the Western world as a whole—to get seriously scared about Parchin and drop the hang-up with Israel.
On Tuesday it was reported that Iran now says it will let the IAEA into Parchin—at an unspecified date. Even if that transpires, it will obviously be after Iran has had enough time to “clean” the site.