Washington — Israel’s punishing air strikes against Syria highlight the delicate dance about sharing information with the U.S. — a balance that provides a blueprint for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Following a pattern set in decades of military cooperation, Israel did not provide the U.S. with advance warning about its intention to launch two strikes on advanced missiles near Damascus, sticking to boilerplate statements about the need to “take any action needed.”
But insiders say prior consulations would be required before any Israeli attack on Iran, because — unlike the Syria attacks — such a strike would likely drag the U.S. into military intervention of one kind or another.
Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official involved in U.S.-Israel relations, called an attack on Iran “the big one” and stressed that Israel would have to share information at the highest level of decision-makers.
“It’s not something that you can come on Sunday and say ‘we’re attacking on Tuesday,’” Miller said, suggesting that approval from the U.S. would take some time.
Still, even in this hypothetical case, the White House would not expect Israel to provide exact details in advance.
“It’s inconceivable that the Israelis will say: ‘We’re going to attack Iran on this day at this hour,” said Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush.
He predicted that the U.S. would not require such specific information and Israel would be reluctant to provide it, fearing leaks from the administration. But Abrams agreed that Israeli officials would tip their hand that an attack was certain, even if they withheld some details.
“Maybe they’ll come and say: ‘we reached the point of high probability,’” said Abrams, who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations.