Bibi Could Be Bluffing

Israel-Iran standoff


Bibi Could Be Bluffing
by Jeffrey Goldberg

Whenever I’m in the Middle East, I find myself, sometimes within hours of arrival, more susceptible to the appeal of elaborate conspiracy theories.

Perhaps it’s the air, or the (lack of) water, but what sounds outlandish in the U.S. doesn’t seem nearly so far-fetched here. I’m not referring to conspiracy theories drawn from the swamps of Sept. 11 delusion-mongering, or from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” or, alternatively, from the “Protocols of the Lunatics Who Believe Barack Obama Is a Muslim.”

I’m talking about the belief, advanced to me by a former senior Israeli military official, and echoed by other non-insane people, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is bluffing: He has never had any intention of launching air and missile strikes against Iran’s nuclear program, and is working behind the scenes with Obama to stop Iran through sanctions.

In this interpretation, what Netanyahu has been doing -- for the past 15 years, in and out of office -- is creating conditions in which U.S., Western and Arab leaders believe that they must deny Iran its dream of nuclear weapons or else suffer the chaotic fallout of a precipitous, paranoia-driven Israeli attack.
An Attractive Theory

The theory has its attractions. For one, Israel hasn’t yet attacked Iran, though its leaders, going back to Yitzhak Rabin, have all stressed the danger an Iranian nuclear program would pose to Israel’s existence. For at least the past two years, experts have argued that an Israeli strike is highly likely, yet it hasn’t happened.

Another attraction has to do with the personality of the man himself: Netanyahu is much better at talking than doing. Despite his reputation in some circles as a trigger-happy extremist, Netanyahu has, when compared with his recent predecessors, only sparingly used force against foes such as Hezbollah and Hamas. What he does deploy, daily, are words -- huge gusts of words infused with drama and portents of catastrophe.

His speech on March 5 to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention in Washington is a case in point. Before an audience of 13,000, mainly Jews attuned to threats against their people, Netanyahu drew a direct line between Auschwitz in 1944 and Iran’s nuclear facilities today. If indeed the Iranian nuclear program is a physical manifestation of the Auschwitz spirit, then shouldn’t Netanyahu have ordered airstrikes from the stage? Yet he didn’t.

The former Israeli military official I spoke with Sunday in Tel Aviv suggested three possible explanations for Netanyahu’s lack of action: 1) He is paralyzed and won’t act, no matter what he believes the threat to be; 2) He fears he would risk a serious rupture in his country’s alliance with the U.S. if he attacked Iran unilaterally; and 3) It’s all part of a game, one he has tacitly engineered with Obama.

I remain fairly confident that Netanyahu means it when he says that Israel would strike Iran to prevent it from going nuclear, but this third option is an interesting one, mainly because the game -- a sustained Israeli bluff -- would seem to be working so well.

Obama and Netanyahu don’t like each other very much. When I asked Obama if he and Netanyahu are friends, he said, in essence, “Well, we’re all so busy with our jobs.” It certainly seems clear from the outside that the two men don’t have a trusting relationship.
Extraordinary Accomplishment

But they have accomplished something extraordinary together over the past two years. The sanctions Obama has placed on Iran are some of the toughest ever placed on any country. Even some hardliners now believe that they just might force a change in Iran’s nuclear calculus. And how has Obama convinced the world that these sanctions are necessary? By pointing to Netanyahu and saying, “If you don’t cooperate with me on sanctions, this guy is going to blow up the Middle East.”

Obama’s good-cop routine is then aided immeasurably by the world’s willingness to believe that Netanyahu is the bad cop.

No one fully understands the dynamic between Obama and Netanyahu, apart from the men themselves. And no one, maybe not even their closest advisers, knows what they said to each other when they met alone March 5 in the White House. I recognize the suggestion that the two men are deliberately tag-teaming Iran is a bit much to swallow, and I recognize, too, that believing Netanyahu never intends to attack Iran by himself is dangerous.

But, if true, Netanyahu is proving himself to be an adept poker player. Obama told me in an interview that, “as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.” Whether Netanyahu bluffs is perhaps the more important question.

First published in

Jeffrey Goldberg is a Bloomberg View columnist and a national correspondent for The Atlantic. The opinions expressed are his own.)



Re "start of End..."

by Arj on

Oh... please, STFU already with this smear threat, for it does not concern me a bit!

I expressed my opinion without accusing anyone of anyghing, if you your logic is so shaky that you have to supplement your "points" with accusations in order to feel secure, it's your problem, not mine!


Bluffing vs. Reality... start of End for Iran-Ruler's

by easycake on

well , well , reading this respond, look like the author is working for Iran Lobbying Arm, as has the Tria Parsi team been doing Lobyying the US congress! 

why the Israel Air Fighters could get refuled in the hight 40k feet elevation using the Boing 707 re-fulers that they just doubled in inventory! and why they would need to get permision to go over Iraq, Jordan, whom have no real Air defense/offense at that elevation in the Air!

the Iran's Missile strikes would be the Closing argumnet of Iran's Rulers to flee for good! many of their Missiles would in fact fall on Iranian Soils(which they would say Americans, etc did). moere would fall on Jordan, and Iraq, West Bank! and Iran Rulers would try to do what Sadam did to Saudies during 1st or 2nd Golf War. .. that that finally would trigger the $60-Bil Saudies New War machine to work Show-off its power... and so would anyone else in the Gulf countries... they have had it with Iran's Rulers -- they are the ones who been making all this Oil Money and been under bully of the Iran Terror games,  of playing Sunnies against Shieys against their stability & secuirty !


and yes, the Hizbolah, And Gaza, and even Syria (most-likely) would try .. but not soo sure, since Assad is in the Go!! & if it looks like that Iran Rullers are going to be gone... well who knows if all 3 realize that the Iran Rulers era has ended ! 

i think  this owuld be the way, Iran gets rid of its rulers through the Arabs ! 


re: If Iranian nuclear program is of the Auschwitz spirit

by easycake on

in regard to:
If indeed the Iranian nuclear program is a physical manifestation of the Auschwitz spirit, then shouldn’t Netanyahu have ordered airstrikes from the stage? Yet he didn’t.

the way thisaticle is moving... should bring to attention that the Auschwitz did not happen over night! it could have been prevented with the WW-I measures imposed to Germany. but everyone ignored it! .. and it wasn not just Auschwitz ... it was about total of 17.5 million people total... the records are kept safe by germans and at the hands of Red cross today(//!  

the Iran Leadership moves and acts like the Nazi era... so lot of people are worried when they see how it treats its own people & can do terror outside of its ring int'ly!!

But, not everyone(every world power Gov.) is worrid, just as they are not worried about the African Continent Jenocides in Uganda, Magadishu, Somali, etc ... whom 1.5-3 mil have been vanished ! 

the former Israeli intel-officer is not the type f person to reveal everything as he seems to be doing on open media. the war machine is trying its best to keep fear into Iran's leadership -- that is for sure, and as it is escelating, it does build-up favorably for the US & Israelies if they decide to act furiously!  just remembering the pre Iraq 1st & 2nd Gulf war & the one in Bosnia/former-Yugoslavia  of last 3-adminestrtions! 

iraj khan

There's no bluff

by iraj khan on

Netaneyahu would attack Iran if he could. It was president Obama who stopped him cold on his track.

"US President Barack Obama did what few people expected him to do at the recent conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a hawkish pro-Israel group. He chose that moment to shift his strategy from out-hawking the hawks (which is next to impossible) to outsmarting them."



Bluffung vs reality

by Arj on

There's no doubt hat BB's been bluffing all along, for if he weren't, he should've attacked Iran numerous times by now! however, the fact that he's full of it, does not mean that he doesn't have, or never had the intention of doing so if he could!

There are plenty of reasons why Israel won't be able to pull it off on its own; on the technical level, Israeli bombers would need the overflight rights from Iran's neighbours (Saudi, Turkey, Iraq and the periphery that includes Syria and Jordan) in order to reach Iranian soil. In addition, on their way back (assuming the mission is carried out successfully), Israeli planes would need to refuel either on one of the said countries' soil, or by the U.S. assisstance in the air!

Moreover, aside from the technial impediments, Israel would have to face political consequences even if it manages to pull it off successfuly. In addition to the probability of Iran's retaliatory strikes at Israeli interests on Israeli soil and abroad, such an attack would plunge the whole region into an incendiary war by provoking an Iranian attack on sensitive oil istallations of Israel's accomplices -- most likely Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states!

Hence, the cost/benefit scale is heavily tipping towards cost for Israel. Especially since considering the sporadic laocationing of Iran's nuclear sites, even if successful, an Israeli attack would fail to completely hault Iran's nuclear capabilities, but it would rather legitimize its overt move towards militarization! Not to mention that the day after the attack, BB (or Israel in general) would lose his bluffing prowess!


Iran & Technology

by Khebedin on

Iran & Nuclear Technology There is a point Israel should know, and a point the world should know. Hence two points:1- Israel knows well that Iran is not her enemy. Israel’s enemies are those who have been and remain the enemies of Iran. 2- Iran is not interested in nuclear bomb, and shall never develop one. Khomaini made it very clear that any weapon of mass destruction was against humanity and hence rejected. Remember, when Sadam was gassing Iranians, Iranians refused to do the same, as a result of wisdom as well as Khomain’s religious verdict. Iran is entitled to any technology which helps any human beings.  




by پندارنیک on

The sooner the Israelis accept the fact the better for the American tax money and blood.................the fact that Iran's nuclear technology, our legal property is a done deal..........finito.............and there will be no A-bombs, none whatsoever........