August 21, 2012 – TEL AVIV – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is determined to attack Iran before the US elections,” Israel’s Channel 10 News claimed on Monday night, and Israel is now “closer than ever” to a strike designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive. The TV station’s military reporter Alon Ben-David, who earlier this year was given extensive access to the Israel Air Force as it trained for a possible attack, reported that, since upgraded sanctions against Iran have failed to force a suspension of the Iranian nuclear program in the past two months, “from the prime minister’s point of view, the time for action is getting ever closer.” Asked by the news anchor in the Hebrew-language TV report how close Israel now was to “a decision and perhaps an attack,” Ben-David said: “It appears that we are closer than ever.” He said it seemed that Netanyahu was not waiting for a much-discussed possible meeting with US President Barack Obama, after the UN General Assembly gathering in New York late next month — indeed, “it’s not clear that there’ll be a meeting.” In any case, said Ben-David, “I doubt Obama could say anything that would convince Netanyahu to delay a possible attack.” The report added that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak believe Obama would have no choice but to give backing for an Israeli attack before the US presidential elections on November 6th. There is considerable opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the report noted — with President Shimon Peres, the army’s chief of the General Staff and top generals, the intelligence community, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, “and of course the Americans” all lined up against Israeli action at this stage. But, noted Ben-David, it is the Israeli government that would have to take the decision, and there Netanyahu is “almost guaranteed” a majority. Other Hebrew media reports on Tuesday also said Netanyahu had dispatched a senior official, National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, to update the elderly spiritual leader of the Shas ultra-Orthodox coalition party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, on the status of the Iranian nuclear program, in order to try to win over Shas government ministers’ support for an attack. –Times of Israel
Tapping SPR, an effort to stabilize the price of oil before war? The Obama administration is monitoring oil markets and a release from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve remains “an option that is on the table” if prices rise or supply is disrupted, said Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman. The administration discussed planning for using the reserve earlier this year when the average retail price of gasoline in the U.S. increased to almost $4 a gallon and the European Union prepared to impose a ban on Iranian oil imports. Oil has climbed 3.4 percent this week on concern that Israel will strike to delay Iran from producing nuclear weapons and as the United Nations Security Council conceded it couldn’t stem the violence in Syria. The U.S. got 16.4 percent of its imported oil from the Persian Gulf in 2011, according to Energy Department figures. Discussion about the reserve comes a sensitive time in U.S. politics as President Barack Obama runs for re-election against Republican Mitt Romney with the sluggish recovery as the central issue. A steep rise in gasoline prices may crimp consumer spending, which accounts about 70 percent of the U.S. economy. In the event of any attack on Iran, the country has said it will block all oil shipments moving through the Strait of Hormuz. –Business Week
Are we on the eve of a major new crisis in the Middle East?