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U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for attack on Iran

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    U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for attack on Iran nuclear facilities By Aluf Benn Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1010938.html The American
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 2, 2008
      U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for attack on Iran nuclear
      facilities

      By Aluf Benn
      Haaretz
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1010938.html


      The American administration has rejected an Israeli request for
      military equipment and support that would improve Israel's ability
      to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

      A report published last week by the Washington-based Institute for
      Science and International Security (ISIS) states that military
      strikes are unlikely to destroy Iran's centrifuge program
      <http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1010934.html> for enriching
      uranium.

      The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and
      rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the
      advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore
      warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would
      undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give
      them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

      As compensation for the requests it rejected, Washington offered to
      improve Israel's defenses against surface-to-surface missiles.

      Israel responded by saying it reserves the right to take whatever
      action it deems necessary if diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's
      nuclearization fail.

      Senior Israeli officials had originally hoped that U.S. President
      George Bush would order an American strike on Iran's nuclear
      facilities before leaving office, as America's military is far
      better equipped to conduct such a strike successfully than is
      Israel's.

      Jerusalem also fears that an Israeli strike, even if it succeeded
      well enough to delay Iran's nuclear development for a few years,
      would give Iran international legitimacy for its program, which it
      currently lacks. Israel, in contrast, would be portrayed as an
      aggressor, and would be forced to contend alone with Iran's
      retaliation, which would probably include thousands of missile
      strikes by Iranian allies Hezbollah, Hamas and perhaps even Syria.

      Recently, however, Israel has concluded that Bush is unlikely to
      attack, and will focus instead on ratcheting up diplomatic pressure
      on Tehran. It prefers to wait until this process has been exhausted,
      though without conceding the military option. Israel's assumption is
      that Iran will continue to use delaying tactics, and may even agree
      to briefly suspend its uranium enrichment program in an effort to
      see out the rest of Bush's term in peace.

      The American-Israeli dispute over a military strike against Iran
      erupted during Bush's visit to Jerusalem in May. At the time, Bush
      held a private meeting on the Iranian threat with Prime Minister
      Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and the Israelis
      presented their request for certain specific items of military
      equipment, along with diplomatic and security backing.

      Following Bush's return to Washington, the administration studied
      Israel's request, and this led it to suspect that Israel was
      planning to attack Iran within the next few months. The Americans
      therefore decided to send a strong message warning it not to do so.

      U.S. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Chairman of
      the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen both visited here in June and,
      according to the Washington Post, told senior Israeli defense
      officials that Iran is still far from obtaining nuclear weapons, and
      that an attack on Iran would undermine American interests.
      Therefore, they said, the U.S. would not allow Israeli planes to
      overfly Iraq en route to Iran.

      The Americans sent a similar message to Iraq, which had objected
      vociferously to the idea of its air space being used for an Israeli
      attack on Iran.

      These private messages were accompanied by a series of leaks from
      the Pentagon that Israel interpreted as attempts to thwart any
      possibility of an attack on Iran. For instance, the Americans
      revealed details of a major Israel Air Force exercise in the
      Mediterranean; they also said they doubted Israel had adequate
      intelligence about Iran's nuclear facilities. In addition, Mullen
      spoke out publicly against an attack on Iran.

      Two weeks ago, Barak visited Washington for talks with his American
      counterpart, Robert Gates, and Vice President Richard Cheney. Both
      conversations focused on Iran, but the two Americans presented
      conflicting views: Gates vehemently opposes an attack on Iran, while
      Cheney is the administration's leading hawk.

      Barak presented Israel's assessments of the Iranian situation and
      warned that Iran was liable to advance its nuclear program under
      cover of the endless deliberations about sanctions - which have thus
      far produced little in the way of action. He also acknowledged that
      effective sanctions would require cooperation from Russia, China and
      India, all of which currently oppose sanctions with real teeth.

      Russia, however, is considered key to efforts to isolate Iran, and
      Israeli officials have therefore urged their American counterparts
      in recent months to tone down Washington's other disputes with
      Moscow to focus all its efforts on obtaining Russia's backing
      against Iran. For instance, they suggested that Washington offer to
      drop its plan to station a missile defense system in Poland and the
      Czech Republic - a proposal Russia views as a threat, though
      Washington insists the system is aimed solely at Iran - in exchange
      for Russia agreeing to stiffer sanctions against Iran. However, the
      administration rejected this idea.

      In an attempt to compensate Israel for having rejected all its
      proposals, Washington then offered to bolster Israel's defenses
      against ballistic missiles. For instance, Gates proposed stationing
      an advanced radar system in Israel and linking Israel directly into
      America's early warning satellite network; he also offered increased
      American funding for the development of two Israeli missile defense
      systems - the Arrow-3, an upgrade of Israel's existing Arrow system
      for intercepting ballistic missiles, and Iron Dome, a system
      designed to intercept short-range rockets. In addition, Washington
      agreed to sell Israel nine Super Hercules long-range transport
      aircraft for $2 billion. However, it would not agree to supply
      Israel with any offensive systems.

      Now, Israel is awaiting the outcome of the latest talks between the
      West and Iran, as well as a formal announcement of the opening of an
      American interests section in Tehran. Israel views the latter as
      sure proof that Washington is not planning a military strike.

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