Obama Vetoed Israeli Strike on Iran, Israel's former NSC chief says

President Obama stopped Israel from launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities a year ago, according to the then head of Israel’s National Security Council, Gen. Giora Eiland. Gen. Eiland spoke with Israeli journalist Rotem Sella, a former former senior writer for the daily Ma’ariv, at the Daily Capitalist blog on the “Mida” online news site. Some quickly-translated extracts from Sella’s report are below:

Exclusive: Prime – Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about to order an attack on Iran in September 2012, but canceled the operation in response to U.S. pressure, the former head of Israel’s National Security Council said last month. Gen. Giora Eiland (retired) added that Israel “has a real ability to destroy Iran’s nuclear program,” and that it is possible that the American veto was related to the presidential election then in progress.

“At the time [September 2012] the Prime Minister thought that we had gotten to a critical point on the Iranian issue and planned to carry out attacks,” Gen. Eiland said at a closed-door conference held on August 19, adding that “Israel did not have in principle approval of U.S. military operations, unless Americans require one – cut prevented any action. ” According to Eiland, the issue was raised at a meeting between Netanyahu and the Americans, who said that the planned attack was out of the question for them, which led to its cancellation.

Since the cancellation of the planned Iran’s nuclear program has continued to progress. Today, argues Eiland, Israel again faces a difficult choice. “Time has passed and we stand before exactly the same decision, with less time. ” He added, “The lack of resolution is dramatic.”

In an interview, Gen. Eiland said, “There are many things Israel can do things independently. In the case of construction in Jerusalem, an assault in Gaza or other issues relating to our area we do not need to ask the Americans when we act, even if they do not like it. Yet when it comes to something with broader concerns to U.S., we cannot act against their judgment. “

The best scenario for Israel, Eiland believes, is an American attack on Iran, but “the lack of U.S. enthusiasm for action in Syria signals that this possibility is not realistic.” The issue of prospective US approval of an Israeli attack remains an open question. “There are variables that have changed since last year primarily in the internal affairs of the United – States, which was then in full swing in elections,” the retired general said. In September 2012, when Eiland headed Israel’s National Security Council, Obama was in trouble due to his poor performance in the first televised debate with Romney. He may have preferred to avoid a war that could harm his re-election campaign.

Do circumstances today allow Netanyahu to attack? That is difficult to assess. But while the Syrian story and Obama’s hesitations occupy the headlines, it is important to remember that the real drama is  in Iran.