An explosive report in a Kuwaiti newspaper claims that President Obama thwarted an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons program in 2014 by threatening to order American military forces to shoot down the Israeli jets.
To be completely clear, this is essentially a third-hand report from a Bethlehem-based news agency, Ma’an, which transcribed the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida’s report, which in turn was based upon anonymous but “well-placed” sources in the Israeli government.
According to Ma’an’s transcription of the Kuwaiti report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the decision to launch airstrikes against the Iranian nuclear program after “Israel revealed that the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel’s back.”
Believing such an agreement would be a threat to Israel’s national security, Netanyahu, defense minister Moshe Yaalon, foreign minster Avigdor Liberman, and top Israeli military commanders spent four nights discussing their options, after which Israeli Army chief of staff Beni Gants was instructed to draw up plans for an airstrike. The report says that Israeli pilots trained for weeks to prepare, and even ran some test flights through Iranian airspace.
The Kuwaiti report then makes the remarkable claim that an Israeli minister with “good ties” to the Obama Administration revealed plans for the impending airstrike to Secretary of State John Kerry, who told President Obama, who responded with a threat to shoot down the Israeli jets before they could strike their Iranian targets. Netanyahu is said to have backed down in the face of this threat and canceled the operation, which Ma’an suggests was a major contributing factor to the souring of relations between Israel and the United States ever since.
Israel National News adds a bit of context to support the Ma’an report, recalling a 2009 Daily Beast interview with Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinksi – who was “a top candidate to become an official advisor to President Obama, but he was downgraded after Republican and pro-Israel Democratic charges during the campaign that Brzezinski’s anti-Israel attitude would damage Obama at the polls” – in which the idea of heading off an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program was floated.
Brzezinksi recommended exactly the course of action Al-Jarida is claiming Obama took, saying that Israeli planes “have to fly over our airspace in Iraq” on such a mission and asking, “Are we just going to sit there and watch?” He ominously suggested confronting Israeli planes on such a strike mission and giving “the choice of turning back or not,” leaving little doubt as to what he thought the alternative should be.
Rick Moran at PJ Media also recalls that Samantha Power, one of Obama’s closest advisers and currently U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, suggested invading Israel with American ground forces to impose Palestinian statehood back in 2002.
As of this writing, there has not been an official White House response to the Al-Jarida report, or evidently an official response from the Israeli government. Prime Minister Netanyahu is due to address Congress on Tuesday, so there are a variety of reasons why a wide range of actors might want to stir up trouble with a sensational report about Obama threatening to attack Israeli forces in mid-flight. It’s also possible that a tense conversation between Obama and Netanyahu that didn’t quite reach the level of “we’ll shoot you down” threats has been misinterpreted by either Al-Jarida or their sources. At the moment, the news would appear to hang somewhere north of “astonishing,” but south of “unbelievable.”