NEW YORK: Israeli leaders planned to attack military targets in Iran in recent years, but they were held back due to the opinions of other governments and military leaders, according to an audio recording leaked to an Israeli television broadcaster, CNN and the New York Times reported on Saturday.

One planned strike was canned after scheduling conflicts with a joint military exercise with the United States got in the way, according to the audio.

The recording with former Defence Minister Ehud Barak was leaked to Israel’s Channel 2. It detailed three strikes Barak had allegedly planned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the reports said.

CNN has translated the audio, which is in Hebrew.

In 2010, an Israeli military assessment put an end to the plans, Barak apparently reportedly said in the recording.

“At that crucial moment, essentially, the answer from the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) was that the accumulated capability does not meet the threshold of the IDF chief of staff that he can say this is operational,” the recording attributed to Ehud Barak said.

Without the chief of staff’s sign-off, Netanyahu and Barak could not order the strike.

“The prime minister, the defence minister, the foreign minister, the IDF chief of staff, the head of Mossad, the head of IDF intelligence, the head of Shin Bet” withdrew for a meeting, the recording said.

“In this forum, essentially, we wanted to know what the situation is. The answer was not affirmative, we could not get this combination out of them.”

Shin Bet is Israel’s internal security service while Mossad is its foreign intelligence agency.

Then in 2011, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz changed the assessment. The capabilities were there, the recording said. Netanyahu, Barak and then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman supported the idea of striking targets in Iran.

Eight other ministers also got on board, though two needed some convincing, the recording said — they were then Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who is now Defence Minister, and then Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, now Energy Minister.

“The IDF chief of staff presents all of the things, all of the difficulties, all of the complications, and all of the problems including the possibility that there will be losses, and you see in front of our eyes how Bugi and Steinitz are melting,” the recording attributed to Barak said. The two changed their minds, the CNN reported. Reportedly, the idea to attack surfaced again in 2012.

“We planned to do it, but then I spoke with (then US Defence Secretary) Panetta and said that I request, I demand to postpone the drill,” the recording attributed to Barak said.

Panetta obliged, but the window of opportunity fell a few days before the next election. It got postponed again.

“The Americans agreed to postpone (joint military exercises) to another date, but also the other date wasn’t comfortable for the same reasons,” the voice said.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2015

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