by Stephen Lendman
On April 20, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel began a weeklong Middle East trip.
Planned stops include Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Republic (UAE).
Late Sunday morning, he arrived in Israel. Discussions will focus on Iran, Syria, and weapons sales to regional allies.
A major arms deal with Israel sends a "very clear signal" to Tehran, he said. Asked if it suggests a potential military strike, he told reporters:
"I don't think there's any question that's another very clear signal to Iran."
"Israel will make the decision that Israel must make to protect itself, to defend itself in a very dangerous, combustible region of the world."
"I think it's important that we keep our eye focused on the objective. And there is no daylight at all (between Washington and Israel) - that Iran is prevented from acquiring a nuclear capacity."
He acknowledged "some differences" between both countries. At the same time, he stressed a "very special relationship." He ignored America's latest Iranian intelligence assessment.
On March 12, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Senate Intelligence Committee members what he's said before. No evidence suggests an ongoing Iranian nuclear weapons program.
"We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons," he said. Despite "technical expertise in a number of areas….we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU (weapons grade uranium) before this activity is discovered."
None has been so far. Iran "wants to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities and avoid severe repercussions - such as a military strike…."
Annual US intelligence assessments say no evidence suggests an Iranian nuclear weapons program. US and Israeli officials know it. Targeting Iran unjustly continues. What follows remains to be seen.
According to Hagel, "military options ought to be the last option." At the same time, he disingenuously calls Iran "a threat, a real threat."
His visit began at Israel's Yad Vashem holocaust museum. Sunday night, he met with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
He'll also meet with Netanyahu and Shimon Peres. Washington's expected to sell $10 billion worth of advanced missiles and aircraft to Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Israel's expected to get radar for fighter jets, upgraded KC-135 refueling tankers, Osprey V-22 tilt-rotor transport aircraft, and anti-radiation missiles. They're designed to knock out enemy air defenses.
The UAE will get two dozen F-16 fighter jets. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates will be sold sophisticated air-to-ground missiles. US officials said new arms sales should not be taken as tacit approval for Israel to attack Iran.
Israeli officials say new weapons in part preserve the IDF's military superiority. Israel gets preferential treatment. It gets inordinate amounts of aid.
Adjusted for inflation, it's over $230 billion since 1948. Included are $3 billion or more in annual congressional allocations, special trade advantages, preferential contracts, hidden amounts, weapons and munitions, interest free loans, and various other exclusive Israeli benefits.
Most often, what Israel wants it gets. As a percent of GDP, it's the biggest defense spender. It's for offense, not defense. Israel has no regional enemies. It invents them to hype fear.
Washington does the same thing. They're rogue partners in crime. US-supplied aid funds regional instability, settlements, and other forms of occupation harshness.
It also made Israel a modern-day Sparta. Politics and militarism are wedded to create a militaristic view of reality. It's institutionalized. Military solutions are considered legitimate, desirable, and often top option.
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion once called the nation "an army and the whole land (a) front." It's the world's fourth most powerful military. It's nuclear armed and dangerous. It's equipped with other state-of-the-art weapons.
It's got an active space and satellite program, as well as biological and chemical weapons capability. It's generously support by Washington. Both countries menace the region and humanity.
According to Netanyahu diplomatic advisor Ron Dermer, Israeli aid will increase following the Boston bombings. Most Americans "stand firmly with Israel and identify with Israel," he said.
"If you can look historically, there was a big change after 9/11, and I am sure that (post-Boston), people will identify more with Israel and its struggle against terrorism, and we can maintain that support."
Dermer claims "Netanyahu is very prudent in the use of force." Palestinians know otherwise. State terror is policy. Netanyahu heads Israel's worst ever government. He's Israel's most extremist ever leader. He governs lawlessly and recklessly.
He spurns peace. It's hard knowing what he plans next. Allied with Washington, anything ahead is possible. Days earlier, Hagel told Senate Armed Service Committee members that 200 US 1st Armored Division troops are being deployed in Jordan.
They'll be positioned along the Syrian border. They'll include intelligence specialists and special forces. Expect others to follow. They're part of Washington's "robust military planning for a range of contingencies."
It's unclear if invading Syria is planned. NATO's been seeking a pretext to intervene. Obama called evidence of Assad using chemical weapons a "red line" America won't tolerate.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said US plans to send 200 soldiers to Jordan "are incompatible with the political commitments and the stances which were agreed upon by all the main foreign parties active in settling the crisis in Syria in Geneva last year."
Russia urges "drop(ping) these dangerous practices and mov(ing) towards meeting those political commitments adopted by all of us with regard to finding a solution to the crisis."
Moscow rejects "humanitarian corridors" and "buffer zones." Establishing them "overstep(s) the Syrian government."
"It's clear that those extremists who are now fighting their first battles in Syria could appear with their full skills in other countries," he added.
Hagel said US intervention "could have the unintended consequence of (embroiling America in) a broader regional conflict or proxy war." It could involve "a significant, lengthy, and uncertain military commitment."
At the same time, Israeli Defense Minister Ya'alon warned that Israel must consider attacking Iran on its own. "The world must lead the campaign," he said, "but Israel must prepare for the possibility that it will have to defend itself with its own powers."
On April 21, Israel National News headlined "Israel, Turkey Quietly Discuss Possible Strike on Iran?"
Israeli envoy Yaakov Amidror began "to raise the issue of Iran in delicate talks in Ankara…." Discussions focus on possibly "parking Israeli fighter jets at an airbase near Ankara."
A key deterrent to attacking is "the distance between Israel and Iran." Amidror may offer "advanced weapon systems to Turkey" in exchange for permission to position Israeli fighter jets near Ankara.
Turkey's Acinci Airbase was mentioned. It's northwest of Ankara.
According to Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey dismissed reports "suggesting that an Israeli delegation set to arrive in Ankara on April 22 would hold talks to use a Turkish airbase to train for a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities."
An unnamed Turkish official said:
"We have already said that the normalization of our relations will be step by step. Talking about the prospects of a military cooperation at this stage would be irrelevant. We are not there yet. We haven't even yet appointed a new ambassador to Israel."
Events going forward bear close watching. Updated reports will explain more.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.