The New York Times reports:
The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year — and perhaps longer — for Iran to complete what one senior official called a “dash” for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.
Administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country’s nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats.
This raises several issues. First, why is this appearing on the front page of the Times? Second, do we imagine that the Israelis were “persuaded”? And finally, is everyone now in agreement that it is one year before the mullahs go nuclear, rather than one to three years, as some in the administration have declared?
The most reasonable answer to the first question is that the administration is getting nervous that the Israelis’ patience to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions is running out and that the Israeli government recognizes that time is not on its side. (“American officials said that Israel was particularly concerned that, over time, Iran’s supreme leader could order that nuclear materials be dispersed to secret locations around the country, making it less likely that an Israeli military strike would significantly cripple the program.”) With news of the Russians’ delivery of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr reactor, the subject of unilateral Israeli action is once again in the air. Hence, the Obami’s need to curb Israel’s intentions and dissuade it from acting. There’s time. No problem. Any action now would be premature. This, one suspects, is the underlying message.
As for whether Israel is “persuaded,” I highly doubt that Bibi is deferring to the Obami’s judgment on much of anything. That the Obama team would use the Times to make this assertion in public reinforces the impression that this story is being used to apply pressure to Israel to refrain from action for now.
On the issue of timing, yes, it seems that the unrealistic spin from the administration that a nuclear-armed Iran might be years in the future is no longer operative. That, as an experienced Israeli hand put it, “is not the headline, but it is the news.”
The real question remains, however, what the administration intends to do when it becomes apparent that sanctions have failed and the mullahs are on the verge of success in their dream of attaining status as a nuclear power. Will the administration think of new excuses for inactivity? What should concern the American people is that the administration uses the Gray Lady to send a message of restraint to our ally rather than as a platform to put forth a message to Iran that we will use force before the year is up. The dog that didn’t bark is also sometimes news.