Israel v. Iran: “U.S. Assets” Might Not Be American

At IPS News, Gareth Porter wrote that when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius last week that he believed an attack on Iran by Israel was forthcoming in the spring, he was seeking to “put pressure on Iran to make diplomatic concessions to the United States and its allies on its nuclear programme in the coming months.” In fact, writes Porter, Panetta’s statement serves as an example of the contradiction in the “administration’s Iran policy between its effort to reduce the likelihood of being drawn into a war with Iran and its desire to exploit the Israeli threat of war to gain diplomatic leverage on Iran.”

Porter also cites Ignatius as explaining

… that the administration “appears to favor staying out of the conflict unless Iran hits U.S. assets which would trigger a strong U.S. response.” But then he added what was clearly the main point: “Administration officials caution that Tehran shouldn’t misunderstand: the United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israeli population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel’s defense.”

Hitherto, when hearing that the United States would only be drawn into war with Iran to protect U.S. assets, I thought it meant U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who knew that it was not only open to interpretation but a category broad enough to include the entire state of Israel?

Furthermore:

The Israelis, [Ignatius] wrote “are said to believe that a military strike could be limited and constrained”. Emphasising the Israeli doubt that Iran would dare to retaliate heavily against Israeli population centres, Ignatius cited “(o)ne Israeli estimate” that a war against Iran would only entail “about 500 civilian casualties”.

Nor had I heard that Israel thinks that neither Iran nor Hezbollah won’t attack its main population centers in retaliation. However delusional that may sound, do Focal Points readers think that a military strike could be sufficiently “limited and constrained” to keep Iran and Hezbollah from responding?

Meanwhile, as should be clear by now, if an attack on Iran comes to pass, the confusion and misinformation that the United States and Israel sow will have played no small part.