American sources disclosed Tuesday March 6, that President Barack Obama had decided to let Israel have weapons systems suitable for long-range military operations and strikes against fortified underground targets. They include four KC-35 aerial refueling aircraft, doubling the number already in the Israeli Air Force’s inventory, and GBU-31 Direct Attack Munition-JDAM bombs of the type which serve US bombers especially those based on aircraft carriers.
This news came together with the announcement that European Union’s Catherine Ashton had proposed to Iran that long-stalled nuclear negotiations be resumed with the Six World Powers.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Tuesday, March 6:
The morning after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged before the pro-Israeli AIPAC convention that he would head off the threat of Israel’s annihilation by a nuclear Iran, and his agreement to disagree with US President Barack Obama in their White House talks, the European Union’s Catherine Ashton suddenly jumped up with a proposition to Tehran to resume the long-stalled nuclear negotiations with the world powers. She made her offer on behalf of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Following the same script as Ashton, Tehran signaled its willingness to let international inspectors visit the military base of Parchin where nuclear explosive tests are strongly suspected of taking place.
Straight after this two-way messaging, Tehran prevaricated by announcing, “Considering the fact that it is a military site, granting access is a time-consuming process and cannot be permitted repeatedly. Nevertheless it would be allowed after the International Atomic Energy Agency submits paperwork about related issues.”
Monday, March 5, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano declined to spell out the suspicion that the Iranians needed time to remove the nuclear evidence from Parchin. “But I can tell you that we are aware that there are some activities at Parchin and it makes us believe that going there sooner is better than later,” Amano said.
DEBKAfile has reported in the past that this military base was used for the secret testing of nuclear explosives and warhead triggers.
Our Washington sources add that US intelligence certainly knew what was going on there. So did President Obama, when he addressed the AIPAC convention and promised to “prevent, not just contain” Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. And so did Netanyahu, when he met the president at the White House Monday
Yet Parchin did not come up on any of those occasions.
The prime minister knew there was no point because Obama was already firmly set on engaging Iran in nuclear diplomacy with the Six Powers – probably in Istanbul next month as Tehran had proposed – irrespective of any other considerations. Tehran was to be allowed to flex its military muscle so as to reach the table in the strong position of a nuclear power.
(On Feb. 18, DEBKAfile first revealed that agreement had been reached to resume those talks.)
Netanyahu spoke from this knowledge when he declared “Israel must be master of its fate” and “The pressure (on Iran) is growing but time is growing short.”
He made it clear that he has no faith in the diplomatic option achieving anything. As in the past, Tehran would apply “bazaar tactics” to duck, weave, procrastinate and haggle, the while using the talks as a safe cover for continuing with impunity the very processes under discussion.
Yet a few hours after the Obama-Netanyahu impasse, Washington and Tehran whipped whip out the diplomacy ploy to cut short Israel’s military plans. It was assumed that Israel would not risk attacking Iran while it was locked in international negotiations.
But Netanyahu has always resisted making this promise. Israel may therefore see its chance when the diplomatic process inevitably hits bumps in the road and stalls.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta echoed President Obama when he spoke before the AIPAC conference on Tuesday: He vowed that the United States would take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if diplomacy failed.
“Military action is the last alternative when all else fails,” he told the pro-Israel lobbying group. “But make no mistake, we will act if we have to.”
He carefully sidestepped any reference to a timeline. So there is no guarantee that Iran won’t already be armed with a nuclear weapon by the time Washington gets around to determining that diplomacy has failed.