Obama talking to Netanyahu
Obama talking to NetanyahuIsrael news photo: White House

A group of former CIA officials warns U.S. President Obama that Israel might attack Iran “even within a month,” and that Obama bears responsibility for having praised Netanyahu.

“We write to alert you to the likelihood that Israel will attack Iran as early as this month,” the open letter to Obama begins. “This would likely lead to a wider war.”

The letter, issued on Tuesday by the anti-Iraqi-war VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity), continues:

“Israel’s leaders would calculate that once the battle is joined, it will be politically untenable for you to give anything less than unstinting support to Israel, no matter how the war started, and that U.S. troops and weaponry would flow freely. Wider war could eventually result in the destruction of the state of Israel. 

“This can be stopped, but only if you move quickly to pre-empt an Israeli attack by publicly condemning such a move before it happens.” [emphasis in the original]

This is only the second memo VIPS has issued. In February 2003, it released a document criticizing then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's famous speech before the United Nations, in which he made the case for war against Iraq by presenting the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

Jerusalem Building Projects and the Iran Problem

The letter is distinctly anti-Israel. Its writers - W. Patrick Lang, Larry Johnson, and Ray McGovern, among others – mock Obama for having expressed confidence that Netanyahu would not try to surprise the United States.

“You may wish to ask Vice President Biden to remind you of the kind of surprises he has encountered in Israel,” the letter states – implying that the announcement of progress in a Jerusalem housing project without informing the visiting Biden beforehand is equivalent to a surprise attack on Iraq.

“Blindsiding has long been an arrow in Israel’s quiver,” the CIA veterans write, going back to 1967 to accuse Israel of “feign[ing] fear of an imminent Arab attack as justification for starting [the Six Day War] war to seize and occupy Arab territories.” Then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s closure of the Straits of Tiran, his frequent calls to “throw Israel into the sea,” and his amassing of 1,000 tanks and nearly 100,000 soldiers on the Israeli border are overlooked in the memorandum, as are the signing of a Jordanian-Egyptian defense pact and Iraqi deployment in Jordan of troops and tanks at Jordan’s invitation a week before war broke out. Forgotten, as well, was the Egyptian Army’s Order of the Day two days before the war plugging "Holy War" and the re-conquest of "the plundered soil of Palestine."

The letter notes that Congress has implied support of Israel in case of an Israeli attack, but that “a strong public statement by you [Obama], personally warning Israel not to attack Iran would most probably head off such an Israeli move.”

Regime Change

The memorandum states that Israel is motivated not by fear of Iranian nuclear power, which it actually has reason to believe that it need not fear, but simply by the desire for “regime change” in Iran.

It accuses Netanyahu of having a “contemptuous attitude toward” the United States, and at having learned this from Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon.

“One would be well advised,” the VIPS letter states, “to greet with appropriate skepticism any private assurances Netanyahu may have given you that Israel would not surprise you with an attack on Iran.”