Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 5, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

ISRAEL AND IRAN....Steve Clemons went to Israel recently and reports that Israelis are considerably less worried about Iran's nuclear program than Americans are:

One of the issues that came up in many of the national security related discussions I had was that Israel has maintained and cultivated a very strong human intelligence network inside Iran. The two nations were close strategic allies 25 years ago and continue, in many behind-the-scenes ways, to communicate and possibly even to coordinate certain actions. It doesn't mean that Israel is ready to appease Iran's regional ambitions, but it does mean that I have witnessed far more worries about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's anti-Holocaust and anti-Israel rhetoric in the U.S. than I did in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

....Nearly everyone I spoke to in Israel who ranged in political sympathies from the Likud right to Maretz left thought that the tone of the AIPAC conference had been too shrill and that Israel thought it wrong-headed and too impulsive to be engaged in saber-rattling with Iran at this stage.

I don't know how widespread this belief is, but it's an additional data point to consider. Do we really want to be more hawkish than the Israeli establishment on this issue?

Kevin Drum 12:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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I guess all the insanely ideological neocons are in DC, not Tel Aviv. Maybe it's something in the Potomac waters.

Posted by: Uli Kunkel on April 5, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

KEVIN DRUM: Do we really want to be more hawkish than the Israeli establishment on this issue?

Since when does what we want have anything to do with what we get?

Posted by: jayarbee on April 5, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

The Iranian public is reportedly pro-West. The Nerve.

Posted by: opit on April 5, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Git yer learn on!


Posted by: Phil on April 5, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

We'll be just hawkish enough to make sure that Diebold will prevent you surrender monkeys from taking over power and imprisoning all us godly Christians!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on April 5, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Good point, Kevin. I wish we had as many intelligence resources in Iran as Israel does. I wonder what the communication level between Israel and the U.S. is.

Also, it would be a good idea to separate actual confirmed U.S. saber-rattling (or British sabre-rattling) from speculations on what the U.S. might be planning.

Go back to that Telegraph article. Count up the times "it is believed" or "believe" is used.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 5, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, extreme left-winger goes to Israel and finds... what ever could it be?... right, left-wing views! I'm shocked?


Posted by: Al on April 5, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the striking part in that article was this,

"But just a friendly note to all of those out there planning some hostile action against Iran -- either as a summer fiasco or just as a back-up plan -- pleae read the Iran chapter in James Risen's State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.

While Risen has been winning awards and accolades for breaking the story on warrantless wiretaps, his revealing two key CIA mistakes on Iran is also incredibly important.

Risen reports that America botched the leaking of true Russian designs for a nuclear warhead trigger device that had embedded in it some flaws which America hoped might lead Iran's nuclear program down a frustrating and incorrect path. The Russian defector the U.S. used to transmit these plans to the Iranian delegation to the IAEA actually informed the Iranians that there were mistakes in the blueprints.

Secondly, in an episode that is hardly believable but still rings true, a CIA headquarters officer accidentally sent an electronic communication to ALL of our human assets in Iran, those working for the CIA and those collaborating, in a manner such that someone on the other end could discern who all the others in the network were.

Iran has subsequently "rolled up" our network and shut down America's eyes and ears inside Iran.

Add to this the Valerie Plame affair -- in which it has been reported that she too was working to gain intelligence on Iran's nuclear program. Of course, that operation has been spiked.

And does anyone remember that it was Ahmed Chalabi's team who informed Iran that the U.S. had broken its codes. It was the Iraqi National Congress's intel chief who turned out to be an Iranian spy. Chalabi's operation worked out of Douglas Feith's legal office before Feith moved into DoD. And Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress's lawyer was former CIA Director R. James Woolsey.

All that just happened to happen to the CIA Iran project? Could that really be a coincidence?

Posted by: cld on April 5, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

The difference is between Needing a war (to preempt Iranian Nukes) and Wanting a war(for political purposes(.....

Posted by: Mr. Bill on April 5, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I don't believe this report. It's not what I'm hearing from Israelis. Nevertheless, I hope it's true.

tbrosz: intel cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is pretty darn cozy for obvious reasons. its safe to say that if we end up doing it much of the targeting will be provided by Israel.

heck, Israel could not do it themselves without significant U.S. assistance.
back of the envelope calculation says that Israel's 25 F-15Is (not a sufficient number to take everything out or avoid some attrition from Iranian air defenses...Iran may have a few Mig-31s as well) have about a 2,250km range...if they fly direct...across Iraq (thus with our consent)...that's about 1,750km. They're going to have to refuel somewhere to come back....in or over western Iraq.

Posted by: Nathan on April 5, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I'm rather skeptical about this...as in something akin to "this bell ain't rining like it suppose too."

My first gut reaction is "what?"
He paints an Israel I do not know, and unless the Israeli's have dropped their balls into a sack most of what this guy is reporting is BS.
Israel has F15 Strike Eagles...3000+mile range, 24x 500lbs, or 8x 1000lbs. Refueling? they don't need no stinking refueling!

And considering Israel views the current US adminstration as intellectually competent as a hormone laden teenager at a frat party, I'll be surprised if they don't take matters in their own hands.
When it comes to the survival of Israel, Israeli's aren't hawks...hawks are too timid.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on April 5, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK


huh? although the F-15I has a 4,400km range when not carrying a payload....when fully loaded its range is nearly half that.

although the Iranian border is about 1,200km from Israel, the targets are all over the Zagros mountains and thus a minimum of 1,700km (if not more)....

them's the facts.

Posted by: Nathan on April 5, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Assume ex hypothesi that the Israelis can do it?

Might they not want to do it, not now, maybe not ever?

They have non-state with Iranian ties whose ability to make life miserable for the average Israeli far exceeds Iran's, at least for the time being.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 5, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

It is good for business. (Defnse contractors' business.)

Many people who were against the invasion and occupation of Iraq also suspect Israel as being the driving force behind US militant aggression in the region through lobbying and other activities, i.e. blackmail. Although I think it true that much pressure is put upon our politicians and apparatchiks, as well as blackmail, I do not think that is what drives US policy. What drives US policy is the billions and billions of dollars at stake for defense contractors and oil companies, which also happen to be the two primary constituents of the monopoly political party of the US. So, it is not surprising that Israelis are less worried about Iran than what the propaganda machine that is US media has fooled Americans into believing.

Posted by: Hostile on April 5, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

A strike package is tailored to the mission needs, and with the distance in mind. The max out on load is just to illustrate that the Israeli's have the capability to do whatever they damn well please, America or no America.
And for basic info, a F15 strike, with 2x2000lb's, and 2xextender tanks is pushing 2500 miles+.
They, the Israeli's, don't need no refueling to bomb the facilities.

Remember, it would be a "get in and out" raid, not "get in and hold the fort."

And just so we're clear on this, I'm not saying Israel may or may not do it. I am saying that Clemmons isn't convincing me of his veracity.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on April 5, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

agreed on the last point.

Israel only has 25 ground attack F-15s...its going to be an awfully small strike package...which means they need full loads of ordnance.

and they need U.S. acquiescence to fly over Iraq....

Posted by: Nathan on April 5, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Repeat after me.

Israel should not figure in any US decisions on Iran.
Israel should not figure in any US decisions on Iran.

..keep saying that until you realize that Israel's interest and goals should not have any imput into US interest and goals.
..keep saying until you realize that our own ME policies toward certain Arab states, one policy for one Islamic republic, another policy for another Islamic republic, and our support of Israel are the reasons we have problems with OBL types.

If the US is so incompetent and falling down on the job that it doesn't have it's own decent intelligence on the ME then we should stay at home until we do.

Posted by: Chanel No 5 on April 5, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

In the run up to the Iraq war, a friend of mine with family in Israel said that she thought all our intelligence must be B*sh*t because "the Israelis aren't worried, and they take EVERYTHING seriously."

Now, we have Israelis less worried about Iran . . . probably means military action by the U.S.

Posted by: MDtoMN on April 5, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

there is a house rep on C-span now, Ron Paul, who is speaking on this very subject. Iran has no nukes?

I'm so confused! He's, gasp, a Republican!!

Posted by: bobbywally on April 5, 2006 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

I reckon that the US should just sell Israeli's Stealth Bombers. If they are going to outsource national security - why not go all the way?

Posted by: McA on April 5, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

We only need two planes as we plan on going nuclear.

Posted by: LG Dan Halutz on April 6, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Americans are being encouraged to be more hawkish on Iranian nuke potential for shamefully political reasons: to divert attention away from Bush/Republican failure. It is an outrage.

Posted by: Gadfly on April 6, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Clemmons comments are precisely the perspective that wan't discussed prior to the invasion of Iraq. Isreal is the "canary in the coal mine." They have the finest intelligence in the region, and if they don't seem concerned with Saddam Hussein's WMD threat, or purported connection with Al-Queda, then there isn't/wasn't cause for George W. Bush to be concerned about Isreali or domestic security. That convinced me that Bush's national security basis for invasion of Iraq was a political ruse. Obviously, compassion for human rights wasn't a concern with the Bush Administration, either. It was always about economics (ie., oil).

Oh, and the fact that the Neo-cons were asking for the invasion eight years prior...Isreal would have taken care of a lethal threat far earlier, and they wouldn't have gone to the UN for its blessings.

Here we are, declaring a national/global security crisis, but Isreal is relatively mute, despite radical threats ffom Iran's president. Clearly, Isreal has a trump card...a nuclear arsenal that would eliminate Iran from human occupation for centuries. They know that the ayatollahs enjoy their life and power to much to see it swept into oblivion one dusty afternoon.

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