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The gathering storm, cont’d

A highly knowledgeable Democratic friend emails Ron Ben-Yishai’s YnetNews report “US thwarting Israeli strike on Iran.” The report asserts that the Obama administration is leaking information to the media in order to avert an Israeli strike in Iran. Ben-Yishai observes that in recent weeks the administration has “shifted from persuasion efforts vis-à-vis decision-makers and Israel’s public opinion to a practical, targeted assassination of potential Israeli operations in Iran.” My friend comments succinctly on the report: “Wow. Ron Ben-Yishai is considered to be one of the most serious Israeli defense correspondents.”

Ben-Yishai gives few examples of the Obama administration’s efforts to thwart an Israeli strike on Iran, but the news this week provides what seems to be a case study supporting his thesis. Foreign Policy reports that, according to “four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers,” Azerbaijan has granted the Israelis access to airbases in that country. Such access would dramatically mitigate the difficulty of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

At Commentary, Jonathan Tobin comments on the Foreign Policy story and speculates that one of the administration’s motives in leaking it “is to forestall any Israeli attack. Making public the Azeri role in the military plan might force the Jewish state’s Asian ally to back away from any involvement in the project.”

Tobin further speculates that the administration’s goal is to push the Israeli strike to a time after Obama’s reelection. That’s one interpretation, and it’s arguable. I wonder, however, if it’s not too optimistic. The leaks could also be an extension of what Charles Krauthammer dubs Obama’s “flexibility” doctrine. After the election, Obama will have greater latitude to sell Israel out rather than simply undermine it. One can only hope we don’t have to find out.

UPDATE: Jeff Dunetz has more here.

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