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Published on January 15th, 2012 | by Jim Lobe


UPDATE: U.S. Puts Off Joint Maneuvers with Israel

I think we’re seeing some serious distancing by the Obama administration from Israel’s provocations and possibly some serious interest in engagement with Iran, although the latter may be too hopeful a conclusion to reach.

CNN is reporting this afternoon that Washington has postponed what were supposed to be the joint missile defense maneuvers with Israel in recent years:

The U.S. military has postponed planned military exercises with Israel ahead of a scheduled visit by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. and Israeli officials said Sunday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey’s trip to Israel this week comes amid growing international tensions over Iran’s nuclear program its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz to international shipping. Citing unnamed security officials, Israel’s Army Radio reported Sunday that holding the maneuvers at such a sensitive time could potentially result in unwanted headlines.”

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the exercise had been put off until later in 2012, though the official did not know the reason for the delay.

This would be a very powerful message to Tel Aviv (and Tehran), and it’s worth noting that it follows the Obama-Netanyahu conversation last Thursday that I alluded to in my last post.

It is understood here that Gen. Dempsey stated his concerns about the possibility of an Israeli attack directly to Obama some time in the last two weeks and came away dismayed at what he saw as the president’s rather passive reaction at the time. It may now be that the escalating tensions over the Strait of Hormuz, combined with the administration’s anger over both the false flag operation and last week’s murder of the Iranian scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, has persuaded the administration to take a much more assertive stance.

Moreover, there are growing indications of serious efforts to engage Iran on the nuclear issue, including Tehran’s agreement to host an IAEA delegation and stories about Washington’s communicating with Tehran through intermediaries (allegedly to make sure Iran understood what U.S. “red lines” in the Gulf were, but also possibly to demonstrate greater seriousness in resolving the nuclear file). The assumption for the past week or so here has been that there will be another P5+1 meeting with Iran by the end of this month or early next.

It’s important in that context to recall the timing of the assassination of nuclear scientist Majid Shariari and attempted assassination of his colleague, Fereydoon Abbasi, on the same day, November 29, 2010, and its coincidence with a planned P5+1 meeting the following week. While expectations for that meeting were not running especially high (Ahmadinejad was being harshly attacked by opposition factions for the Oct 1 agreement “in principle” on the P5+1’s swap proposal), Tehran had reportedly agreed on or about November 26 to hold the meeting in Geneva December 6-7. Despite the assassination three days later, Iran, which charged at the time that the attacks were aimed at derailing the P5+1 talks, went ahead with the meeting whose results, however, were inconclusive. Now, 13 months later, another Iranian nuclear scientist is killed just as Tehran agrees to receive a high-level IAEA delegation amid what appears to be an intensification of diplomatic activity that most observers believe is designed to lay the groundwork for another P5+1 meeting.

There seems to be a pattern here, and it’s one that suggests that whoever was responsible for last week’s assassination is trying very hard to reduce the chances that the P5+1 and Iran can reach a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear program.

Perhaps the administration is now persuaded that failure to reach such a solution is very likely to lead to war, and that the time has come to get serious with the spoiler. Cancelling much-anticipated military exercises on missile defense no less, particularly during the current election season, would seem to indicate a degree of seriousness on the administration’s part. I would imagine that Gen. Dempsey has a very stern message to convey.

About the Author


Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.

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