A report in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald today says that Australia’s intelligence agencies feared that Israel would launch an attack against Iran which might draw both the US and Australia into a potential nuclear war in the Middle East.
In a cable WikiLeaks have provided to the Sydney Morning Herald’s sister paper, Melbourne’s The Age, the US embassy in Canberra reported to Washington in December 2008 that the peak Australian intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (ONA), were concerned about a possible Israeli strike against Iran. Then in March 2009 another cable was sent to Washington, DC, from US intelligence agents in Australia saying:
The AIC's [Australian intelligence community's] leading concerns with respect to Iran's nuclear ambitions centre on understanding the time frame of a possible weapons capability, and working with the United States to prevent Israel from independently launching unco-ordinated military strikes against Iran.
They are immediately concerned that Iran's pursuit of nuclear capabilities would lead to a conventional war - or even nuclear exchange - in the Middle East involving the United States that would draw Australia into a conflict. (My bold emphasis added.)
The dates in relation to this exchange between American and Australian intelligence services are particularly interesting. On 27 December 2008 Israel launched its devastating attack against the people of the Gaza Strip, an attack which went on relentlessly until 18 January 2009. Israel then completed its withdrawal from the Gaza on 21 January 2009, just one day after Obama was sworn in as President but, more importantly, one day after President Bush left office.
Just as I noted in my blog of the 22 January 2009, it’s clear that Australia’s intelligence services were also concerned that Israel’s attack against Hamas in the Gaza Strip may well have been a prelude to an Israeli attack against Iran. Having failed a little over two years earlier in 2006 to escalate their war against Hezbollah in Lebanon to find casus belli to attack Iran, Israel had tried yet against to provoke a regional war that would include an attack against Iran this time by attacking Iran’s other ally, Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Clearly, Australian intelligence was concerned that an attack against Iran by Israel would automatically bring in the US. Australian intelligence would also have known – and hence the concern – that Israel could not possibly attack Iran without being covertly in connivance with the US. In other words, an Israeli attack against Iran could never be truly ‘unilateral’.
While Obama was President-elect, Bush was still actually the President and, therefore, still Commander in Chief. Even as late as the last days of Bush’s presidency in January 2009, if Israel had attacked Iran, Bush would undoubtedly have been there to help them and Obama would have had no choice then but to finish the job off. It was this that the Australian intelligence community feared.
The question now is; will Obama be complicit in any further Israeli plans to attack Iran and under what pretext might such an attack take place? What is for sure from the March 2009 cables when, by then, Obama was president; is that the Australian intelligence community were not convinced that Obama would behave any differently from Bush with regards to Israel launching a ‘unilateral’ attack against Iran.
The real big question now is; are the Australian intelligence community any more convinced today that Obama won’t be complicit in an attack on Iran – and what are America’s expectations of Australia in the event of such an attack?