AirTalk for February 3, 2012

Why has saber-rattling amplified against Iran?

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Attends NATO Conference In Brussels

Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta looks through documents on arrival at NATO Headquarters to attend a series of NATO Ministers of Defense meeting on February 3, 2012 in Brussels, Belgium. According to reports the U.S. Defense Secretary has expressed concerns over the possibilty of an attack on Iran by Israel. Yesterday, Panetta, spoke of the agreement of NATO allies to step back the lead combat role in Afghanistan.

It has been another week of intense exclamations over Iran's alleged nuclear weapon program. Yesterday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke after an Israeli strategy conference: "Today as opposed to in the past, there is a wide global understanding that Iran must be prevented from becoming nuclear and no option should be taken off the table... Today as opposed to in the past, there is wide world understanding that in the event that sanctions won't reach the intended result of stopping the military nuclear program, there will be need to consider action."

Barak's strongest comments come on the heels of unconfirmed reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta worries targeted attacks from Israel on Iran's possible nuclear instillations are imminent.

The Washington Post wrote, "Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June." Speaking in Brussels yesterday, Panetta said, "Israel has indicated they are considering this, and we have indicated our concerns."

Although President Barack Obama made strong pronouncements against Iran obtaining nuclear capability during his recent State of the Union address, it's said his administration is trying to deter an Israeli assault. The diplomacy is being characterized as a "persuasion initiative." The Associated Press spoke with officials on the condition of anonymity who said the U.S., Britain, France and others are making diplomatic appeals to Israel.

How real are these threats? Jerusalem Post writer Yaakov Katz writes, "The main question, though, is what has suddenly changed, and why Israel's entire top military and political leadership is speaking openly and publicly about Iran in the span of just 24 hours.

WEIGH IN:

For whom are their threats meant?.... There are no clear answers, but a strong possibility is that Israel is trying as hard as possible to get the world to believe that it is serious about using a military option so it will instead keep on escalating sanctions." How likely is it that Israel would strike preemptively? What do the latest reports from the International Atomic Energy Committee tell us about Iran’s nuclear aspirations? What would be the consequences of it? What has been the reaction from Iran?

Guests:

Mike Shuster, diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News; he joins us from NPR West, in Culver City, where he’s based

Blake Hounshell, Managing Editor, Foreign Policy


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