As Conn Hallinan writes at Focal Points, the Israeli military, president and intelligence agencies continue to debate — with more vehemence than ever, in fact — both an attack on Iran and how to rope the U.S. into the subsequent war. Though, “This fight is hardly a split between doves and hawks.” Hallinan explains.

According to columnist J.J. Goldberg of the Jewish weekly Forward, while the new Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, has “spoken scathingly” of the “short-sighted strategic vision of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak,” he is hardly part of some peace faction. Rather the division seems to be between aggressive right-wingers supported by the settler movement and opposed to any agreement with the Arabs, and a more “cautious faction” that includes [former military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi] Ashkenazi [who instead favors among other things] “covert action” — military-speak for targeted assassinations.

Turns out Iranian authorities are conflicted, too — about the very matter over which Israelis are at each other’s throats. On Friday Greg Miller and Joby Warrick reported in the Washington Post about the new U.S. NIE (national intelligence estimate) on Iran’s nuclear program, which

concludes that Iran has resumed research on key components for a nuclear weapon, but that the slow and scattered nature of the effort reflects renewed debate within the regime over whether to build a bomb. . . . Overall, the National Intelligence Estimate concludes that Iran is conducting “early stage R&D work on aspects of the manufacturing process for a nuclear weapon,” said a U.S. official familiar with the report. At the same time, the estimate describes “serious debate within the Iranian regime . . . on how to proceed.”

Why the hesitation?

The new estimate’s description of intense disagreement within the regime over the nuclear program has been cited by some U.S. officials as evidence that economic sanctions have worked. [While] others who have read the new report disagree [officials] on both sides of the sanctions issue agree that Iran’s leaders are probably influenced by concern over potential Israeli military strikes.

Of course, the aggressive Israeli right-wingers about whom Hallinan writes are likely to draw the conclusion that, whether or not they prevail, they may as well keep beating the drums for war since that seems to be a factor in Iran’s hesitance to commit to a nuclear-weapons program.

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