Israeli government officials said remarks by the top U.S. military commander expressing doubts about the effectiveness of a strike on Iran’s nuclear program reinforced the view that Israel may have to fend for itself.
U.S. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that an Israeli strike would “delay but probably not destroy” Iran’s program, and he doesn’t “want to be complicit” if Israel chooses to attack on its own.
The Israeli officials, who were not authorized to give their names, said that last week’s International Atomic Energy Agency report, which said Iran has quickened the pace of enriching uranium to possible weapons capability, weakened the argument that more time should be given for economic sanctions.
“The report confirms what we have been saying for some time, while the international sanctions are indeed making things difficult for the Iranian economy, they are not delaying the progress,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday. “The international community is not setting Iran a clear red line and Iran does not see international determination to stop its nuclear project.”
Those who argue that Israel should not strike by itself because it can count on U.S. support were also undermined by Dempsey’s comments, said the Israeli officials.
The widening gap between Israel and the U.S. over Iran policy comes as President Barack Obama is reportedly taking new steps to forestall a unilateral Israeli strike. The measures include broader military preparations in the Persian Gulf, more sanctions on Iran oil revenue and possibly a declaration on what Iranian actions would trigger a U.S. strike, the New York Times reported yesterday.
Netanyahu is scheduled to visit New York on Sept. 27 to speak at the United Nations General Assembly. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Channel Two television yesterday that the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu is “what it needs to be” and said the media are exaggerating the differences between the U.S. and Israel on Iran.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Aug. 31 in Tehran that his country’s nuclear program is intended for civilian purposes only and to use it to build weapons would be “a sin.”
Israeli and U.S. leaders have said repeatedly that “all options are on the table” to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, including a military strike. Netanyahu told U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Aug. 1 that time “is running out” for a peaceful solution to Iran’s atomic program.
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