Friday's New York Times ran a story that is generating a lot of buzz: "U.S. Persuades Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent." If Israel were being persuaded not to strike Iran's nuclear program, that would indeed be big news. But even the headline had bloggers scratching their heads: how did the U.S. persuade Israel? And does that mean the threat really isn't imminent? When the web headline changed to "U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent," people were further confused. What's actually going on here?

  • What the White House Is Thinking  Hot Air's Allahpundit suggests this "front-page administration-fed NYT story" is likely connected to the story about the new Israel-Palestinian talks. "
The idea of this two-step media offensive, presumably, is to put pressure on Israel not to do anything "rash" before the new round of peace talks plays out ... That's consistent with the White House’s thinking all along: They've always believed that settling the Palestinian issue first will make it easier to deal with Iranian nukes by denying the mullahs an opportunity to exploit the great Muslim grievance. ... My guess is that, if talks start to advance, there’ll be some sort of effort behind the scenes to bribe Iran into not making trouble. What that will look like, I have no idea--maybe relaxing sanctions?
  • What the Israelis Are Thinking  The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, fresh off a cover story about Israel's plans to attack Iran, suggests that what has changed is that "the top leaders of Israel are increasingly convinced that Obama means what he says when he says he is 'determined' to stop Iran's nuclear program." An Israeli reader of his blog disagrees.
  • But Are The Israelis Really Persuaded?  Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell notices that at first the New York Times headline ran "U.S. Persuades Israel that Iran's Nuclear Threat Is Not Imminent," but quoted no Israeli officials seeming persuaded. Then it changed it to "U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent." The Times also added: "In interviews, Israeli officials said their assessments were coming into line with the American view, but they remain suspicious that Iran has a secret enrichment site yet to be discovered." Asks Hounshell: "is Israel persuaded or not?"
  • Nope: This Is White House Strategy--The Story Is for Pressure  "I highly doubt," writes Commentary's Jennifer Rubin, "that Bibi is deferring to the Obami's judgment on much of anything. That the Obama team would use the Times to make this assertion in public reinforces the impression that this story is being used to apply pressure to Israel to refrain from action for now."
  • What's Actually Going On  Steve Schipper at Threats Watch offers his take:

As to the veracity of the assertion that Iran is a year off from a nuclear device, or perhaps more, that's probably about right. Furthermore, Israeli intelligence and the IDF almost certainly know the details behind it as well or better than the United States.

It is highly unlikely that the United States intelligence services are educating Israel on the nature or condition of the Iranian threat or its nuclear program. It is, however, highly likely that the United States political establishments are pleading with Israel--or perhaps using stronger, more forceful language--in order to control how the Jewish state reacts to the emergence of Iran's progressing nuclear gambit.

  • 'What's Slowing Down the Iranians?' asks Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy, taking the Times story at face value. He's got an interesting idea: "The sanctions and the lack of technical competence are probably heloping, but if I had to guess, I'd wager that the covert attempts at sabotage are yielding the most promising results."
  • U.S. Cover Sabotage? Really?  "It sounds a little Tom Clancy to me to be honest," says Doug Mataconis tentatively at Outside the Beltway. "Especially since our intelligence efforts in the Middle East haven’t exactly met with success in the past."