Throwaway line in ‘NYT’ story suggests that Israel is pressuring U.S. on war with Iran

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 27 Comments
David Sanger speaking at the East West Center
NYT reporter David Sanger speaking at the East West Center

The New York Times is reporting that Iran has begun nuclear enrichment at a second plant, but reporter David Sanger leaves the militaristic Israeli response till the jump:

“No one has a full sense of the Iranian production plan there,” said one diplomat who has studied the few details Iran has shared about the plant. “And I think that’s the point.” Already Iran has produced enough fuel to manufacture about four weapons, but only if the fuel goes through further enrichment, nuclear experts say…

It is that ability that has Israel most concerned. So Israeli officials were relieved in December when Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, speaking at a conference in Washington, strongly suggested that the United States was determined to stop not only a weapon, but the ability to produce one. But on Sunday, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mr. Panetta was less specific about how close to the line Iran would be allowed to go. Sanctions and separate embargoes against Iran were “working to put pressure on them, to make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they’re doing,” Mr. Panetta said, in comments that were taped before Mr. Abbasi’s announcement. “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us.”

When Sanger says that Israeli officials were “concerned” and are now “relieved” by Panetta’s statement that the American red line is Iran’s “ability to produce” a nuclear weapon, he surely knows what he’s talking about. Sanger moderated a panel for the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies during their 2010 conference on Iran. The panel featured the senator from AIPAC, Mark Kirk. And a year ago he reported, based on mostly-unnamed sources, that “the covert race to create Stuxnet [computer worm aimed at Iranian program] was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis.”

The questions American readers should ask based on this latest unsourced information are:

Who in Israel is pushing the U.S. to war against Iran? Is this in Americans’ interest? When Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, stated to Senator Rand Paul last night that it is American policy to prevent countries from getting nuclear weapons, what policy was she reflecting? Why did we not use force to prevent Pakistan, India, and Israel from obtaining nuclear weapons?

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27 Responses

  1. Dan Crowther
    January 10, 2012, 11:32 am

    I was gonna read the times article, and phil’s post, but apparently Mitt Romney said something stupid yesterday, so as an American, I am bound to give all my attention to that……

  2. Patrick
    January 10, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Leon Pannetta said “And our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us.”

    I would suggest that the Secretary of Defense has, in fact, moved the goal posts. If Iran could master enrichment, it would effectively acquire the capability to produce a nuclear weapon. Hence Iran was not to be allowed to enrich its own uranium. That used to be the U.S. red line. Now it’s just: don’t build a nuclear weapon. And Panetta acknowledged that Iran is not doing that. The U.S. has effectively conceded that it won’t start a war if Iran sticks to the production of nuclear fuel.

    • Abierno
      January 10, 2012, 12:48 pm

      Is it not the case that we would have a fuller sense of Iranian production had
      George W. Bush et. al. not outed Valerie Plame whose intelligence responsibility
      was Iran? Was it the case that much of that intelligence network “collapsed” with her identification in our national media? Is this relevent to current discussions
      – since we have sanctioned Iranian oil and banks on the basis of: “No one has a full
      sense of the Iranian production plan there.” I would add sanctions which have
      the capacity to seriously erode any economic gains made in the past two to three
      years. Will these sanctions, if agreed to by European countries, sink their already
      weak banks thereby further weakening our own banking system? (I believe Mary
      Shapiro this morning has requested that US banks disclose their holdings in European banks owing to concerns regarding their status.)

    • lysias
      January 11, 2012, 7:18 pm

      Yes, that’s how I interpret the Panetta statement as well. He’s saying that the red line for the U.S. now is building a nuclear weapon, something he specifically denies Iran is doing.

      Sanctions and separate embargoes against Iran were “working to put pressure on them, to make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they’re doing,” Mr. Panetta said, in comments that were taped before Mr. Abbasi’s announcement. “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us.

      Their acquiring the capability is a source of concern, but it is not crossing a red line.

      I think the expressed Israeli pleasure at Panetta’s statement is just an attempt to put a good face on what is really bad news for them.

  3. Tuyzentfloot
    January 10, 2012, 12:31 pm

    “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us.”

    This is a very confusing line. Is Panetta fine with developing nuclear capability but not with developing nuclear weapons? That would be an explosive statement and it should not go down well at all with the Israelis. Iran on the other hand would sign for that because nuclear capability is good enough a deterrence for them.

    Hello again folks.

    • lysias
      January 11, 2012, 7:19 pm

      May be a good enough deterrence for Iran, but what possible grounds could we have to object to their developing a mere capability?

  4. teta mother me
    January 10, 2012, 12:58 pm

    all the details about 3.5% and 20% and 90% cause eye glaze.
    but I think I understand the difference between the words “nuclear CAPABILITY” and “nuclear WEAPONS.”

    Iran IS nuclear CAPABLE. It’s nuclear CAPABILITY is monitored by IAEA and is within its rights as an NPT signatory.

    What is so confusing about that Tuyzentfloot?

    Is the ‘confusing’ element the reality that Panetta is hewing to the rule of law and Iran’s legal and contractual rights, rather than issuing comfort letters to Israelis who disavow rule of law and have not contracted to participate in nuclear regulation regime? In other words, is it a problem that Panetta is not acting as Israel’s indulgent uncle?

    You rock, Leon Panetta.

    • Tuyzentfloot
      January 10, 2012, 5:16 pm

      It is confusing because there are several cues pointing in the opposite direction.

      – while the US officially is worried about Iran working on nukes, it wants to keep Iran weak and not nuclear capable, which is in line with Israel’s position
      – The Panetta quote has “And that’s what concerns us” putting emphasis on the nuclear capability.
      – The article claims the Israelis are not upset by Panetta’s statement

      • teta mother me
        January 10, 2012, 9:03 pm

        not sure what you mean by “several cues pointing in the opposite direction.”

        Is the implication that there are “cues” that Iran IS attempting to produce nuclear weapons?

        What are those “cues?”

        We’ve danced this dance before — it was demanded of Iraq that it prove a negative. False evidence was proffered (yellowcake/MEK-Mossad laptop) that was used to “prove” that Iraq/Iran indeed possessed WMD. The personal testimony of Iraq’s chief of intelligence, obtained at great risk by Britain’s intelligence service and presented to Condi Rice, was disregarded and buried, and false documents produced to discredit the witness in the event he should attempt to go public. In the case of Iran, the declarations of the religiously committed Khameini that nukes are contrary to Islam, and the witness that Iran did NOT use chemical weapons even when their own people were killed by Saddam’s chemical weapons, is similarly disregarded by the latter-day Condi Rice.

        All the world knows that it made no difference whether Iraq had WMD or not; WMD was a pretext for a foreordained war. Similarly, if Iran were to itself destroy every nuclear site on its landscape, and toss every missile and rocket into the Persian Gulf, Israel and the US would STILL punish and attack Iran, because WMD is no more the reason for Iran’s victimization by Israel and US than Iraq was; the hobbling and Iraqing of Iran is foreordained, and nothing, short of an “unprecedented outbreak of antisemitism” or a revolution of the American people and their fighting men against their corrupt leaders, will stop it.

      • Tuyzentfloot
        January 11, 2012, 3:52 am

        I am only talking about what Panetta was saying really. Normally the west obfuscates the difference between nuclear weapons capability and building nuclear weapons when they talk about Iran. ‘cues’ is about cues to what Panetta is trying to say. If he is saying the US is fine with Iran having nuclear weapons capability that is potentially an explosive position. I prefer not getting into the whole nuke subject.

  5. dumvitaestspesest
    January 10, 2012, 1:46 pm

    Why should we trust Israel that owns uncharted amounts of Nuclear Power, and who is known for its aggressivness, disregard for human rights, oppressions, hubris and contempt for majority of the world ??
    Why American politicians and MSMedia people don’t dare to bring this up as a problem for the global peace??
    Why do they assume that it is OK for the criminal to possess full arsenal of nuclear weapons, but it bothers them that other nation ( known for being respectful and peaceful) wants to defense itself against this crminal???
    When are they going to stop with hypocrisy and double talk, and start talking like a human beings that actually care ,and have some honor and decency??

    Do they really think people on the Earth are THAT stupid and ignorant???

  6. Brewer
    January 10, 2012, 3:30 pm

    Interesting analysis on the real agenda:

    The Geo-Politics of the Strait of Hormuz

    • chet
      January 11, 2012, 7:56 pm

      Wow! What an interesting article – thx Brewer.

  7. lobewyper
    January 10, 2012, 5:18 pm

    I’ve suggested that an Israeli only or Israeli/US Iran strike would unleash anti-Semitism on a massive and totally unpredictable scale. The US is not in a position economically to risk setting the Gulf “aflame” (Panetta’s word from his Saban Symposium talk). Sooo, I still think it’s all a bluff. What I’d like to know is what Iran can do to get the sanctions lifted. Teta mother me, any ideas on this?

    • teta mother me
      January 10, 2012, 8:40 pm

      1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


      Tell me, lobewyper, does it trouble you that ordinary Iranian people are suffering, that they go about their day filled with anxiety that they may not be able to buy food for their children, or that their homes may be bombed, or their land forever polluted with uranium, or their magnificent monuments destroyed, or their sons killed as they were between 1980-1988 (their photos are still pasted on doorways — I saw them, in remote villages and major cities, poster photos of sons and fathers killed in war) — does any of that trouble you?

      Or does it trouble you that “an Israeli only or Israeli/US Iran strike would unleash anti-Semitism on a massive and totally unpredictable scale.”

      btw, I disagree that “antisemitism would be unleashed.” My understanding of antisemitism is that it is hatred of Jews for no other reason than that they are Jews.

      If Iran is attacked by Israel/US, then hatred of Jews/Israel and the US would be unleashed, as it righteously should be, for cause. Don’t cause hate, you won’t “unleash” hate.

      One step further, however: the US and Israel are already “attacking” Iran; an article in JPost acknowledges the several ways Iran is being tortured by Israelis, Jews, and Americans. For those unjust actions against Iran, Israelis, Jews, and Americans deserve to be hated. If they do not wish to be hated, then they should not behave hatefully.

      “What can Iran do to get the sanctions lifted?”

      Is that the Iran-specific version of what can the people of Gaza do to get Israel to stop killing them?

      The question should be, lobewyper, what is my obligation and responsibility as an American, and your obligation as a Jew and/or Israeli (?), to demand that my government stop behaving immorally and illegally to punish innocent people. Do I have an obligation to put my body and my life on the line to prevent further evil against innocent people? How do I do that? How do YOU do that? What can YOU do to stop this hateful USrael killing machine?

      What can Iran do? What can the victim of psychopathic hate do? Defend itself! Defend its people! By every means possible.
      Thank your stars that the Iranian government is extraordinarily rational, and that the Iranian people are tremendously forbearing. If I were subjected to the injustice that the Iranian people have been subjected to, I would be “antisemitic” on a good day.

      What can you and I do to get the sanctions lifted.
      I think Hillel answered that.

      The rest is commentary.

      • lobewyper
        January 11, 2012, 8:06 am

        Teta mother me,

        I have realized for many years that I am not as smart and informed as I would like to be–but it is unquestionably salutory periodically to be reminded of these flaws.

        A large part of my question stems from my ignorance of exactly what the deal is with Iran. Like Tuyzenfloot says above, the issue sometimes is explained as preventing an Iranian bomb, and sometimes, preventing the level of enrichment needed to make one. I thought we had inspectors on the ground in Iran to monitor enrichment levels. Then again, I thought Iran had agreed to obtain nuclear fuel rods from other countries instead of making their own.

        Further, I don’t know exactly why sanctions are being applied, and why Russia and China (among others) have agreed to same. So this is why I asked what Iran needs to do to stop the sanctions. I suspect they would have to do something, and was merely asking what that “something” is.

        So far as the suffering of innocent Iranians as a result of sanctions is concerned, this is partly the choice of the Iranian government–so we are back to the question of why the sanctions are being applied.

        Re: anti-Semitism, I am aware of its definition. However, many Jews who are either neutral toward or in opposition to current US/Israeli policy toward Iran will suffer from anti-Semitism in the event of an attack upon Iran, and this would also be an injustice.

        Although I agree that those opposed to an attack upon Iran as individuals have the responsibility to actively oppose such, we need to find the most effective ways to do so. A few voices crying in the wilderness is not going to bring AIPAC and its US minions to its knees.

        Finally, your response above suggests an absence of consideration of real-politiks. Countries act in their perceived self-interests, and not always in line with their stated principles. This applies to Iran as well as the US and Israel. What I would like is more information, because many of us are still seeing the situation “through a glass darkly.”

      • chet
        January 11, 2012, 8:11 pm

        Lobewyper – as to more information, let me recommend the Iranian film “A Separation” that is nominated for a Golden Globes award.

        It provides insights into the day-to-day lives of a middle-class Iranian family as well as some very interesting insights as to the Iranian legal system.

        At the end of the day, one is left with the impression of how much this family of a demonized state are so much like “us” and how the barrage of pro-war propaganda seems to ignore that the country is made up of families just like the one depicted in the film.

  8. DICKERSON3870
    January 10, 2012, 6:12 pm

    RE: “the senator from AIPAC, Mark Kirk” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Lookout Phil, this might be sufficient grounds for Josh Block to issue a fatwā declaring a jihad against you like he recently did against The Center for American Progress (Ali Gharib, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss) and Media Matters (M.J. Rosenberg)!

    SEE: Under pressure from smear campaign, Center for American Progress abandoned assertion that Israel lobby is pushing war with Iran

  9. lobewyper
    January 10, 2012, 7:16 pm

    Check out these recent photos of Iran (not a machine gun in sight):

  10. Patrick
    January 10, 2012, 7:47 pm

    The article states: “So Israeli officials were relieved in December when Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, speaking at a conference in Washington, strongly suggested that the United States was determined to stop not only a weapon, but the ability to produce one.”

    The article doesn’t relate what Panetta actually said during a conference that the Israelis were pleased with. However, in his comments on Face The Nation, he was very clear: the U.S. red line is ‘do not develop a nuclear weapon’. Sure the U.S. may be ‘concerned’ that Iran will have the capability of producing a nuclear weapon. But he certainly didn’t say that the U.S. was going to do everything to prevent Iran from achieving this capability, which it may already possess.

  11. Sin Nombre
    January 10, 2012, 10:56 pm

    It seems to me a mistake to perceive any monolithic (much less mass-conspiratorial) attitude of “the U.S.” or “the U.S. government” position or attitude vis a vis Iran:

    I don’t think for instance that Obama nor indeed many in his administration *want* a war with Iran. Or maybe it’s just as accurate to say that few people who would be held “responsible” for any such thing want such a war.

    Instead I think what we’re seeing is Obama—through Panetta most recently—trying to push back against being manipulated into such a war. They see the War Lobby and Congress pushing for same, and they know that lots of the intent behind these latest “sanctions” for instance are really just hoped-for provocations: Fully intended to try to jab Iran into doing something in reaction that can then be pointed to as the reason the U.S. *has* to attack.

    No doubt Obama can’t be totally absolved here: He’s signed onto these sanctions for political reasons it seems to me.

    But he has consistently—if in a muted fashion—kept his distance from saying that a mere A-bomb “capability” is a “red line.” So what Panetta has just done has un-muted that.

    Thus seems to me that there was a kind of two-fold audience this was intended for: The Israelis and their partisans, and the Iranians. To the former I think Obama drew a “red line” as well essentially saying “No, I’m going to stand (for now!) on not attacking Iran unless they get an actual weapon.”

    And to the Iranians he’s essentially saying “Don’t do anything stupid; I’m not going to attack unless you either explode such a weapon or display one, so doing something stupid is defined as making me attack you for something less.”

    Again this isn’t to absolve Obama, just to analyze him. For my money what we’ve already been doing has been tantamount to acts of war with Iran, and Americans for instance would certainly regard the kind of sanctions we are about to impose on Iran as an act of war against themselves justifying going to war against their makers.

    But on the other hand you can’t endlessly excuse stupidity or zealotry: It’s easy to say the Iranians are “justified” doing anything, but doing something “justified” that results in more suffering for your people than would otherwise be the case is still something subject to huge criticism.

  12. gingershot
    January 11, 2012, 12:07 am

    I’m counting the days before Netanyahu and AIPAC pressure Obama into forcing Panetta to recalibrate that line

    Israel and her Lobby have the US where they want them, once again. There are probably a dozen different way the Lobby will manufacture a miscalculation at this point, with the Gulf of Hormuz at near full boil, and finagle a way into a war

    The Israel Lobby will just keep taking bites at the apple, such as: Iran responsible for US deaths in Iraq, Iranian weapons in Iraq, UN planes painted with US colors(floated by Bush), US Navy Seals dressed up as Iranians (floated by Cheney), Israeli Lobby financial strangulation of Iran (an act of war according to Ron Paul), threats over closure Hormuz, more Iranian scientists murdered, more explosions at Iranian military sites, more drones over Iranian airspace, more US/Israeli Stuxnet-like cyber attacks, more MEK-attacks. more Israeli subs off the Iranian coast, more US warships off the coast, etc, etc, etc

    How much more of this can Iran stand before it ‘makes a mistake’ or somebody responds? The Israel Lobby wants war and it will have it

    Panetta? I think Panetta is sloppy and here we are hanging on his words …

    • Sin Nombre
      January 11, 2012, 8:18 am

      “I’m counting the days before Netanyahu and AIPAC pressure Obama into forcing Panetta to recalibrate that line”

      Yes, in addition to the one asking if the Iranians are going to rise to the bait in some large (probably dumb) way, that’s the big other question.

      Except that the “forcing” you mention will, I suspect, take the form of continued provocations against Iran mostly hoping for a reaction: Or, in other words, it will take the form that will make it look like Iran did the forcing.

      More explosions/assassinations in Iran for instance, more MeK support and the like. And one thing I suspect we’ll also see is something that’s flown beneath the radar a bit but which is very clever: If there’s anything that gets under the skin of everyone in the region it’s the Kurds, and Iran’s got ’em too. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see these folks too being used, and this is something that could indeed drive the Iranians wild:

      The breakaway Kurds aren’t just politically dissident, with perhaps some support or sympathy in some circles in Tehran, or regarded as other dissidents perhaps as deserving of at least something less than full-on harshness. Or regarded as necessitating something less than full-on harshness if only to avoid inciting domestic Iranian opinion.

      Instead the breakaway Kurds are regarded as, well, what they are: A mortal threat to the Iranian nation as it presently exists. (Even if one might observe that the Kurds aren’t Persian, Iran as presently constituted has existed for quite some time, its background existence included suzerainty over Kurdish areas, so that a breakaway threat strikes at the heart of all Iranian nationalism anyway.)

      So the breakaway Kurds have no sympathy, and there’s no reason for any niceness to them in the minds of the Iranians, and they are in a very pestiferous position vis a vis Iran: They can have safe havens running across the border in a number of directions which is a huge huge thing maybe even making them invulnerable, and they are big enough to be able, one way or another, to always get arms and etc. even when not being supplied same by some other power using them.

      So the U.S. could (and maybe already is) use them to start in on Tehran, as could the Israelis.

      And then last of course, if no provocation proves sufficient to get Tehran to rise to the bait is the possibility of some false flag or etc. operation, plenty easy enough to manufacture. Suddenly a US warship hits some mines in the Gulf or the Straits … some defector suddenly appears with a shocking story … you name it.

      That’s kind of what makes all these reports of the Israelis coming here to hear Obama’s “red lines” funny as well as obvious: They just wanna know what they gotta do to make ’em look crossed.

    • Patrick
      January 11, 2012, 12:06 pm

      “Panetta? I think Panetta is sloppy and here we are hanging on his words …”

      Panetta is speaking for the U.S. military – a very powerful constituency. And the military definitely does not want to go to war with Iran, not after the experience in Iraq.

      I agree though that there will be attempts to provoke Iran. Just yesterday another one of its nuclear scientists was assassinated.

  13. NickJOCW
    January 11, 2012, 5:44 am

    Our lives are full of things we have the capacity to do but don’t. The speedometer on my car suggests I could do 150 mph but I rarely do more than 75, the maximum legal speed where I live. Indeed, anyone with a kitchen knife…you could go on forever. I don’t know the technicalities but it would seem unlikely one could develop a system to enrich uranium to 20% without acquiring the knowledge and latent capacity to enrich it further.

    • lysias
      January 11, 2012, 7:25 pm

      A nuclear capability would mean Iran could build a nuclear weapon within months, if it wanted to. And that would serve as a deterrent to Israeli misconduct, a deterrent in the region that it has not faced since the fall of the Soviet Union. Israel does not want to be deterred, she wants to continue to have carte blanche to do whatever she wants in the region. And she talks as if she is willing to go to war to preserve that carte blanche.

  14. eGuard
    January 11, 2012, 6:00 pm

    Jon Stewart was keeping the war on the agenda Tuesday, and just that. No mentioning of Israel. Least funny section candidate for this year. He had to use Fox News seriously to make a point.

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