x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Pressure on US is aim of Israel's rhetoric over Iran strike

Israeli leaders have told Washington they would not warn their ally before launching an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

JERUSALEM // Israeli leaders have told Washington they would not warn their ally before launching an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

The move is an attempt to pressure the US administration into a tougher stance over Iran, analysts said.

Officials in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, issued the warning during a recent series of meetings with Pentagon officials and Congressmen on the issue.

The threats come ahead of the Israeli leader's address on Monday in Washington to a gathering of the Jewish-American lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, during which he is expected to deliver harsh words on Tehran. He is expected to relay a similar message during a White House meeting that day with the US president, Barack Obama.

The escalated rhetoric is part of a push by Mr Netanyahu to convince the United States to declare itself prepared for military action should Iran cross a "red line" with its nuclear programme, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported yesterday.

Thus far the US administration has stopped short of such a pronouncement, preferring the "all options are on the table" position. It has instead opted for imposing economic sanctions on Tehran.

Mr Netanyahu has told scores of visiting US officials that they would be made aware of an Iran attack only after the fact.

The US, in turn, has reportedly been working to persuade Israeli officials against such an attack, arguing that it would only be a "temporary setback" to Iran's nuclear programme. They believe it is too dispersed and too advanced to be crippled in an aerial military strike, as many in Israel anticipate.

The Israelis appear unconvinced.

Tel Aviv has been concerned for months over Washington's position on Iran, whose alleged atomic weapons aspirations are viewed by Mr Netanyahu's government as an "existential threat".

Israel hopes to jolt Washington into taking a harder line, said Tamir Schaefer, professor of political science and communications at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

"Israel is trying to present itself as the crazy kid in the neighbourhood, saying out loud: 'If you won't do anything, we will do something crazy'," he said.

"It is quite clear that whole Iran issue is a source of huge frustration for Israel."

Iran denies havaing plans to develop nuclear weapons even though the International Atomic Energy Agency has warned its uranium-enrichment capability could be a precursor for doing so.

The issue has infused more tension into an already troubled relationship between Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu.

They have been divided on a number of issues, especially the question of a future Palestinian state and Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

During their last White House meeting, in May, Mr Netanyahu appeared to chastise Mr Obama in front of television cameras over the issue of where to place Israel's borders next to a future Palestinian state.

The pair seem to be courting each other's opposition over the Iran issue.

The US administration has found support, apparently, from Israel's president, Shimon Peres, a critic of those advocating an attack on Iran.

Mr Netanyahu is suspected of reaching out to Mr Obama's Republican opponents, discussing the issue over the past two weeks with a number of congressmen and senators, including the Republican senator and former presidential candidate, John McCain.

Mr Netanyahu aimed that frustration at Mr Obama during one such meeting last week, according to the Haaretz report, which described the Israeli leader as criticising Mr Obama's stance as one that "serves the Iranians".


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