U.S. Leaders Had Better Heed Israel's Warnings on Iran

On the one hand, we cannot exclude the possibility that the senior Israeli officials briefing us are bluffing. On the other hand, what we journalists hear in closed rooms is staggering.

Something quite extraordinary has been happened in recent months:  Israeli leaders have taken to openly threatening to attack Irans nuclear facilities before Christmas 2012. 

In public speeches, such as the one given by Prime Minister Netanyahu at the AIPAC Conference in Washington three weeks ago, an analogy is being made between 1944 and 2012. 

In private meetings there is even more direct talk of the need to take military action later this year. The message conveyed by Israeli decision makers is clear and blunt:  Time is up.  Its now or never.  If the international community doesnt stop Iran by summer, Israel will soon strike.

As the current Israeli leadership is rather isolated, only a handful of journalists have been directly exposed to this somber message. 

The unique situation puts us professionals in a moral dilemma.  On the one hand, we cannot exclude the possibility that the senior Israeli officials briefing us are bluffing.  They have a vested interest in doing so, in order to put pressure on the American administration and the world powers. 

The direct talk of imminent war sometimes seems too surreal to be real. 

On the other hand, what we journalists hear in closed rooms is staggering.  The officials talking to us seem to be genuine and earnest.  The sources are top-notch and what they say is consistent with what we know of the preparations being made by the IDF.   There are no blunt lies here.  There is no cheap spin.  So are we to self censor priceless information indicating war might break out soon?

The latest victim of the publish-or-censor dilemma is Jeffrey Goldberg.  For years, Goldberg has been the leading American journalist covering the Israel-Iran crisis.  In September 2010, he published a remarkable piece in the Atlantic Monthly, forecasting an Israeli air strike on Iran.  In early March 2012, he conducted an in-depth interview with President Barack Obama regarding Israel and Iran. 

In his Bloomberg columns, Goldberg monitors the unfolding Mideast drama with precision and insight. And yet, distinguished columnists such as Roger Cohen of the New York Times dismiss Goldbergs information and analysis.  They claim that an Israeli attack on Iran (with no American support and cooperation) is insane and therefore would never happen.

Personally, I hope Cohen is right.  An Israeli air strike on the Islamic Republic is the worst way to stop its nuclear project.  But up to this point, all diplomatic attempts to stop the Ayatollahs have failed.  Recently imposed sanctions are biting, but they do not really discourage the Shiite fanatics.  By 2013, Israel might lose its military potency vis--vis Iran. 

So temperatures are rising in Jerusalem.  As time is running out the Goldberg scenario becomes more and more likely.  What he hears from his sources, and what I hear from my sources, lead us to believe the coming summer is a crucial one.  If senior Israelis are now shouting gewald, American decision makers and opinion leaders had better pay close attention.