Is Israeli military using Barak in struggle w/ Netanyahu over Iran Deal?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) – –

The revelations from former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s memoir keep coming. Another excerpt was broadcast by Israel’s Channel 2 on Sunday.

Barak gave the interviews as background to his autobiography “Wars (Milhamot) of my Life.”

“Bibi is weak, he doesn’t…he doesn’t want to take tough steps unless he is forced to do so . . . Bibi himself is immersed in a kind of deep pessimism and has a tendency…in the balance between fear and hope, he prefers, generally, to err on the side of fear. He once referred to it as ‘worried . . .”

In an excerpt released Saturday, Barak had said that he and Netanyahu were ready to launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities (at Natanz outside Isfahan) on three separate occasions in 2010-2012, but were foiled each time.

In 2010, Israeli chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi stopped them by maintaining that the military did not have the capacity for this mission. (Iran is very distant and Israel’s planes can’t get there and back very easily, nor would they be allowed to fly over Turkey or Iraq, nor would the Iranians take it lying down). In 2011, even other far right wing hard liners on the cabinet voted against. And in 2012, the US launched joint military maneuvers with Israel around the time of the planned attack, which would have made it look as though the US were behind the strike and even Netanyahu and Barak couldn’t risk Washington’s wrath.

Note that strikes on thousands of active centrifuges and stockpiled enriched uranium would have released enormous amounts of radioactive material into the air of Isfahan (pop. nearly 2 million, i.e. nearly the size of Houston, Texas), constituting a de facto dirty-bomb attack on Iran with large loss of life. Some of the radioactive fallout would have come back on Israel itself.

Apparently Barak thought that the interviews would remain background for his book and not be leaked because military censors in Israel would never approve them for publication or broadcast.

But the military censor has twice given Israel 2 radio the go-ahead to broadcast excerpts from the tapes.

While speculation rages in Israel that Barak is trying to undermine his enemies as part of a bid to come back as the head of the Labor Party and make another bid to be prime minister (Ashkenazi is a rival here), and that trash-talking Netanyahu is part of this plan, it seems more likely that he did not expect the interviews to be allowed on the air.

If this interpretation is true, then it is likely that elements in the Israeli military high command ordered the censor to allow the tapes to come out in public, and that it is they who want Netanyahu weakened.

We know that Israeli army chief of staff Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and many other high officers do not think Iran is the primary security threat to Israel. It is likely that they have been extremely annoyed by Netanyahu’s challenge to the Obama administration in trying to derail the Iran deal on monitoring its nuclear facilities.

The tapes would serve the Israeli military well in any struggle with Netanyahu. First, they underline that a previous chief of staff, Gaby Ashkenazi, had the ability to block the prime minister from a reckless strike on Iran in 2010. Second, Barak’s comments make Netanyahu look like an unstable combination of Hamlet and Napoleon– pessimistic, depressed, timid, and yet capable of erratically deciding to lash out at a country 10 times the size of Israel that has millions of armed allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The airing of the interviews also undermines Barak himself (a fierce opponent of the Iran deal), who is widely considered a wild card in Israeli politics. He looks like a blabbermouth and backstabber. He was never likely to come back to the helm of Labor, but now is even less so.

Netanyahu has been ruthless in pursuit of power. He openly said there would be no Palestinian state in his lifetime, tearing the tattered fig leaf from the US State Department’s standard enabler role for Israeli expansionism in Palestinian territory. He used the army as mafia hit men in Gaza, ordering rules of engagement so loose they were bound to result in high civilian casualties (Eizenkot is known not to have agreed with such an approach in the 2006 Lebanon War). He paraded around Washington boasting of his ability to veto Barack Obama’s Iran negotiations, with an open alliance with the worst elements of the Republican Party. The Israeli security establishment, which is pragmatic and level-headed, must be terrified of him.

Israeli parliamentarians are demanding an inquiry as to how in the world the military censors allowed the Ehud Barak tapes to air. How, indeed.

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Related video:

Wochit News: ” Ex-Defense Minister Says Israel Aborted Plan to Strike Iran in 2012 to Prevent U.S. From Being Dragged into war”

21 Responses

  1. Intriguing! I’d like to find a way to get all players to check their ego at the door. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one,” quoted in Human history by John Stuart Mill, is a fundamental element of Vulcan philosophy.

  2. “While speculation rages in Israel that Barak is trying to undermine his enemies as part of a bid to come back as head of the Labor Party and make another bid to become prime minister…….”

    This is not the first dispute Ehud Barak has had disputes with PM Netanyahu.

    Recall as defense minister, Barak abruptly resigned after the targeted killing of Hamas acting military wing leader Ahmed Jebari occurred. That death happened shortly after Hamas and Israel had already reportedly agreed in principle on a long-term truce and had prepared a written draft of the agreement. While Netanyahu thought the ruse to be clever (flushing out Jebari from hiding on the premise of an impending peace deal) – Barak saw this as an underhanded move and quit the cabinet.

    It was Ehud Barak, as a Labor Party PM, who made the controversial decision in the late 1990s to have the IDF withdraw from Lebanon. He has earned a reputation as a pragmatic liberal politician who as PM had sought to advance peace negotiations with the Palestinians. When he lost his prime minister seat to Ariel Sharon, this fueled the intensity of the Second Intifada. Ehud Barak was defense minister during Operation Cast Lead and unsuccessfully recommended to PM Ehud Olmert to end that Gaza operation well before Olmert agreed to do so.

    Barak has often critically opposed hawkish elements within the Israeli government, and I do not see any “attempt to undermine”, on his part, anyone by his recent interview revelations.

    “Israeli parliamentarians are demanding an inquiry as to how in the world the military censors allowed the Ehud Barak tapes to air……………”

    The Office of Chief Censor is headed by Brigadier General Sima Vaknin Gill. That office has in the past been accused to engage in politics in deciding what gets censored or not. It is possible that the IDF – whose leadership recently, in large part, opposed Netanyahu on the Iran deal – wanted to have the Barak statements as a way of embarrassing PM Netanyahu.

    • We have to be careful to appreciate how little their differences may be outside of the conflict between their styles, personalities and ambitions. There may be generals who have an enlightened perspective of what is in Israel’s best interests, but underneath the veneer of conflict over the Bibi’s crudeness I’m not sure they are in that much disagreement. Isn’t it as a matter of political expediency that Barak has always positioned himself immediately to Bibi’s left?

      Barak in his actions has shown the same ruthlessness as Bibi, although he seems to have a slight appreciation of subtlety (Bibi setting a low bar). His withdrawal from Lebanon, for example, seemed to be a rather cold tactical calculation for its affect on Camp David II. One can actually argue that Bibi has been more effective, the question being about the longer run.

      • “Isn’t it a matter of political expediency that Barak has always has always positioned himself immediately to Bibi’s left?”

        The 1999 commitment of Barak to withdraw the IDF from Lebanon was based on firm public sentiment within Israel to stop the casualty count of Israeli military personnel during the occupation of south Lebanon – the 1,000th IDF fatality milestone had been reached in 1996 during the 15th year of that occupation following the Operation Galilee invasion in June of 1982.

        On a personal level, both Netanyahu and Barak have similar backgrounds – in fact, Barak was a key organizer of the 1976 Entebbe raid in which Netanyahu’s older brother, Yonaton, was killed as a young army officer.

  3. This also says a lot about the weakness of democracy in Israel. It’s hard to imagine the military of any west European democracy interfering so blatantly in party politics.

  4. as to whether Israeli jets could attack Eshafan,
    perhaps the Saudi King would allow them to use his airspace, if coordinated in advance.
    SANG could shoot them down with ADA furnished from the USA, if they flew near the sites protected by the ADA umbrella.
    .
    And who could stop IDF from flying through Syria, or Northern Iraq ?
    This wasn’t the case in 2010, pre-ISIS, but today it is possible.

    • The REALITY that the IDF is dealing with:

      – Israel has about 400 medium range fighters. Each fighter has less than five hard points on which to hang munitions and each munition must not weigh more than several hundred pounds. Note that the munitions add a lot of drag to the aircraft, causing the fighters to use fuel like it was pennies a gallon (it actually costs a lot more) and drastically shortens the range. Any attack on Iran would require multiple aerial refueling for each aircraft , increasing the mission length and pilot fatigue (fatigue causes massive errors).

      – Israel has less than 10 aerial tankers, which drastically limits the number of aircraft that can be on the mission. While an aircraft is refueling, others have to burn fuel waiting for their turn. It is a vicious cycle.

      – The conventional munitions the fighters can carry are only capable of blowing up surface structures and killing lots of humans. None of the munitions Israel can use will do any damage to Iran’s underground facilities.

      – Israel does have nuclear weapons that can be carried by a fighter, but the consequences of useing nukes would probably get Israel destroyed before the USA could even think about stopping the destruction.

      – Iran has a multi-layer overlapping aircraft/cruise missile defense system based on long range S-400 clones they developed in conjunction with China after Russia screwed both on S-300 sales and medium range, high altitude BUK clones and several short range Iranian designed missiles. Regardless which route they take, any Israeli pilot entering Iran after a long, stressful, multiple aerial refueling trip will be very fatigued and is going to be facing a 65% chance of death.

      So what the IDF leadership is looking at is a very high probability of very heavy losses followed by massive retaliation by Iran. Sure the USA might intervene at some point, but the destruction of Israeli infrastructure and economy could be pretty severe by that time. Even if the USA tries to help, the rest of the world will probably push back real hard on the USA and Israel, therefore the USA may have to decide that Israel isn’t worth the damage to the USA economy.

      Basically an Israeli attack on Iran has far too high a chance of dismal failure for any competent military leader to agrees to it.

    • We may all be too enlightened to hunger for a fight the way neocons do, but you’ll notice how tough it is to avert your eyes and thoughts from what simply will not happen as long as even half-sane heads prevail. (Big caveat there, I know, and on countless occasions responsible people have been known to put too many combustable materials in the wrong place, unconsciously inviting totally unnecessary, that a then inevitable, initial implausible disasters happens.) These sort of natural apprehensions create opportunities: in fact, over time trillions of them.

      The THING to watch here then, and why there is all this HOT, anxious air, is MONEY. As I commented on this blog a long time ago, all this noise coming out of some gulf states and Israel is about SHAKING-DOWN the US, consistent with their entire history. With the gulf states there will be money to be made by US industry, but the concessions they’ll press for (and stand to get, as this wasn’t a plan they just cooked-up a month ago) will be qualitative. Ditto for Israel, but they’ll want it essentially for free. Seems like I read where there was talk of Israel now pressing for B-52’s.

      No. This deal is going to go through, because it will hurt the US even more than Israel (that is, their way of Doing Business) if it doesn’t, and the World will make the deal work as long as Iran can hold up its end. What remains is for the various third parties to take the US for every dime it can, and these people know how to play this game (review the history of how much the US paid for the “success” of Camp David, which was in both Egypt and Israel’s best interests before they decided to shake down the US to “make it possible”).

      Still, pay attention to the positioning now underway to extract INCREDIBLE amounts of money from the ever pliant congress, in return for “allowing” just enough votes for Obama’s veto to hold. They’ll take all those concessions AND use the next president (of whatever party) to threaten the agreement, at which point they’ll shake us down for more.

      This is a long-standing and consistent pattern of behavior.

  5. Barak is spewing lies. The first thing that is totally off is that these comments portray Israel as an independent country.
    The second lie is about who it was that has been sabotaging some of the US attacks on Iran. The third lie is about when these attacks were sabotaged. The lie that they were dissuaded from launching an attack on Iranl because of joint military maneuvers does not even make the slightest bit of sense. Any one with a bit of sense would know that joint military maneuvers have a long lead time.
    So his lie would expect us to believe that they had initially planned an attack during a time that they knew that they would not go forward with an attack. Hahhahahhaha!
    So that would make it logical to conclude that Barak knew that these lies would be leaked out.
    So what is the real agenda of these lies? I will have to think about that for quite a while before I can come up with the likely answer.

    • I agree about the ingeniousness of these leaks. Barak is a relatively subtle guy and this appears to be part of a larger game. It all rather reminds me about how he orchestrated the process at Camp David II with leaks.

  6. I suppose an alternative explanation is that The Littlest Ehud’s memoirs are a steaming pile of bulls**t, and the reason why these “revelations” aren’t being blocked by the censors is because they know perfectly well that these stories aren’t true.

    Misinformation, spread by a habitual liar.

    After all, that does appear to be an Israeli specialty.

  7. Another problem with a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran is that there is no reason the Iranians would believe that they were acting without prior approval from Washington, but instead acting as our cats-paw. That would leave our Navy in the Persian Gulf in an extremely dangerous position. The Iranians would retaliate for such an attack by firing on American warships in the Gulf and Arabian sea. Thus an Israeli attack without prior notice to Washington, as Bibi has threatened repeatedly, could produce heavy American naval casualties from a rain of antiship missiles.

    • “Thus an Israeli attack without prior notice to Washington, as Bibi has threatened repeatedly, could produce heavy American naval casualties from a rain of antiship missiles.”

      From Bibi’s perspective, a win-win.

  8. Ehud Barak was a very promising Israeli general who failed as Prime Minister. He was not the first Israeli military commander named Barak who was used and then discarded by the Israeli politicians. See Judges 6:6-22

  9. Prof Cole think you will be very interested in a segment on Hardball tonight. Chris Matthews goes a few rounds with non -experts Feehery, Capehart and Molly Ball about the Iran deal. Feehery has his lip prints all over Israel and the I lobbies hind end. The discussion about Schumer’s vote for the Iran deal and how it is “for Israel” should get some attention.

  10. Actually destruction of the centrifuges would not have released a great deal of radioactivity. 3.5% enriched uranium is not very dangerous, the radiation is blocked by natural fibers such as the paper protective clothing worn when handling the stuff. The gas in the centrifuges is corrosive, but would have quickly dissipated due to the inverse square law. Which is why the idea of a dirty bomb is Hollywood fantasy. In any case what would have been the point of bombing a known, IAEA-monitored site if instead Iran supposedly had “undeclared facilities” where the supposed nuclear weapons work is/was.would be (depending on the particular spin) going on?

    • they had stockpiled fair amounts of 19.75% enriched uranium. As for 3.5% enriched not being dangerous, it is what would be used in a dirty bomb, which security experts are deeply concerned about – and also what is released in a plant meltdown, since it is what fuels the plant.

      • Actually a “dirty bomb” can easily be made with ANFO and any long half-life nuclear material. I do not want ot give details on a public forum, but it is insanely easy to build a very bad “dirty bomb” with materials that are readily available in most countries. A “dirty bomb” does NOT require a nuclear enrichment cycle.

        And yes, 3% enriched uranium is very dangerous which is why nuclear power plants which use fuel enriched to only 3%, have many meters of shielding.

  11. Mentioning Isfahan made me think of the city’s 1500 Jews so beautifully reported on in Larry Cohler-Esses’s piece who Netanyahu and Barak would unhesitatingly bomb and irradiate to make their “point”.

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