US to Israel: Hands Off Iran

Haaretz reports that the Obama administration has demanded that Israel not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities without its approval, and Israel has agreed:

Israel has acceded to American demands by pledging to coordinate its moves on Iran with Washington and not surprise the United States with military action.

During a trip to Jerusalem earlier this week, CIA chief Leon Panetta informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that U.S. President Barack Obama demanded that Israel not launch a surprise attack on Iran. The message expressed concern that Israel would cause an escalation in the region and undermine Obama’s efforts to improve relations with Tehran.

I suppose protecting Iran’s nuclear program could “improve relations” with that country, but why this would be a desirable goal is unclear. Of course, blocking Israel from disabling Iran’s nuclear program is not a policy that originated with Obama:

The Bush administration also sent tough messages to Jerusalem a year ago, including a demand that it not strike Iran. Israeli officials believe that U.S. foreign policy professionals are vehemently opposed to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, so this position was transmitted from the previous administration to the present one.

I’m sure that’s true. I also suspect that Obama, who seems to see popularity with foreign leaders, especially hostile ones, as the principal goal of foreign policy, was a receptive audience. It’s possible, of course, that if and when the time comes the Obama administration will give the green light to an attack on Iran, as the Bush administration did before Israel knocked out a Syrian nuclear facility a couple of years ago. Time will tell.

This may be an opportune place to mention that our friend Roger Simon reacted to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a manner that was more rational (albeit also more spiritual) than Obama appears to: “How Ahmadinejad Made Me A Believer.”

SCOTT adds: Haaretz also carries an interesting article on the Israeli estimate of Iraninan progress to production of a nuclear weapon. The article is “Defense ministry: Iran could have nuclear bomb by 2010.”

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