Why did Barak leak details of ‘Iran attack plans’?


Former defence minister Ehud Barak has said that Israel was on the brink of attacking Iran a number of times from 2009-2012, but each time the plan was postponed due to objections from the IDF, the cabinet and at least once through lack of coordination with the Americans.

In the recorded interviews published over the weekend on Channel 2, Mr Barak explained that in 2009 and 2010, he, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had decided to launch an attack on Iran's nuclear installations, but the IDF Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi insisted that the army was not operationally ready to carry it out.

Mr Barak and Major General Ashkenazi clashed often during the latter's term at the helm of Israel's military, and their relationship has become the subject of a police investigation.

In 2011, according to Mr Barak, the military readiness was there, but he and the prime minister failed to reach a majority in the "cabinet of eight" with ministers Moshe Yaalon (now defence minister) and Yuval Steinitz backing down form their original position in support of the attack. Since both these ministers are still the closest members of the cabinet to Mr Netanyahu, this was also seen by many as a criticism of the prime minister.

In addition to his account of the disagreement over the Iran strike, in the recordings Mr Barak also disparaged the prime minister, saying at one point: "Bibi is engulfed in deep pessimism... in the balance between fear and hope he usually prefers to be more afraid" and that "Bibi is weak... he doesn't want to make difficult steps unless he's forced." The Prime Minister's office responded: "It's time to end this irresponsible talk relating to national-security issues."

Mr Barak’s motives for bringing these details to light now are unclear. One possible reason is that he is about to publish his memoirs and is interested in creating a PR-buzz in advance and preempting any rivals. A second motive is that there have been reports that his old rival, Mr Ashkenazi, is about to exonerate him from the long-ongoing investigation and he is planning on entering politics. Mr Barak is hoping that the new revelations will harm the ex-IDF chief’s prospects. The third and most intriguing theory is that over two years after he retired from politics, Mr Barak is planning yet another comeback and this how he is preparing the ground.

While no-one has publicly challenged the veracity of Mr Barak’s account, there are those who were involved in the decision-making process at the time who are convinced that while Messrs Netanyahu and Barak tried to overcome the opposition to a strike both from the security chiefs and their own ministerial colleagues, they themselves were never actually going to order an attack. Their true purpose, according to the sources, was to convince everyone, especially the Obama administration, that Israel was serous about attacking Iran and therefore had to be prevented either by further sanctions or by American action against the Iranian nuclear installations.

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