Saturday, March 10, 2012

The curious case of the busted bunker busters

Bowling Bombs. From Freaking News.
One of the more arcane bits of controversy arising from last week's visit from Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington is the question of whether anything happened on the issue of the so-called bunker buster bombs made in America (Lockheed) for which Netanyahu yearns, as something that could be used to blow up Iran's underground nuclear facilities, should he find it necessary to do that.

It started for me at one or another digital hangout where a mildly paranoid participant was frantically informing people that Obama had decided to equip Netanyahu with all the bombs [jump]
he could use for that purpose, citing stories in the Times and the Guardian. Well, I knew that wasn't true, because I had seen the report in Tuesday's Haaretz:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the United States approve the sale of advanced refueling aircraft as well as GBU-28 bunker-piercing bombs to Israel during a recent meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The American official said that U.S. President Barack Obama instructed Panetta to work directly with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the matter, indicating that the U.S. administration was inclined to look favorably upon the request as soon as possible....(Haaretz, March 6 2012)
What the President had done seemed to be limited to setting up a chain of communication—and one that you would have thought already existed. And it looked to me, though this is certainly not what Haaretz was saying, like a way of putting a decision off, in a polite and encouraging way.

But then Ma'ariv claimed on Thursday (in Hebrew only, and I can only confirm through English-language sources such as the Israel Matzav blog and the New York Post), that
The US offered to give Israel advanced weaponry -- including bunker-busting bombs and refueling planes -- in exchange for Israel's agreement not to attack Iranian nuclear sites, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported Thursday.

President Obama reportedly made the offer during Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington this week.

Under the proposed deal, Israel would not attack Iran until 2013, after US elections in November this year. The newspaper cited unnamed Western diplomatic and intelligence sources. (New York Post, March 8, 2012)
So there was a totally opposed theory, or an alternative cabal of anonymous sources with a different story. Not only was there a lot of leaking going on, but some of the leaks had sprung in the wrong vessel: they weren't true.

Meanwhile,  the original paranoid story had turned out to be wrong in a particularly annoying way: the paranoids and I had failed to look at the dates of the Times and Guardian stories about Obama lavishing Netanyahu with bombs, and they had nothing to do with last week's talks, because they were published last November—moreover the arms shipment they discussed had taken place or was alleged to have taken place way back in 2009 (I'll get to the stories themselves in a while). Which made me wonder, in that case, why would Netanyahu be fussing about them now? I mean, he has them already, right?

As it turns out it's not that simple. He may not have them, for one thing, and then if he does have them, he may feel they're not enough, or not the right sort, or both. And then it's interesting in its own right to follow the degree to which a lie can be halfway around the block while the truth is still getting its boots on, as they say, and the way the competition between the two is a matter of propaganda even when it's very difficult to understand what the propaganda value is.

This is material way out of my league, but I've been giving it a lot of time, and there's so much material I think I'll have to publish it in chapters. So, with little further ado, this is the first one.

Oh, and by the way, the White House leapt today to deny the Maariv story:
President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not discuss in their meetings this week a reported Israeli request for advanced U.S. military technology that could be used against Iran, the White House said on Thursday.
"In meetings the president had there was no such agreement proposed or reached," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. Obama and Netanyahu meet in the Oval office for two hours on Monday and then had lunch together....
Carney's comments on Thursday seemed to specifically relate to those meetings participated by Obama and Netanyahu, while failing to comment about the content of other lower-level talks. (Haaretz, March 10, 2010)
They didn't deny, you'll notice here, that Panetta might have agreed about something with somebody.

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