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Obama. Secret channels Photo: Reuters
Obama. Secret channels Photo: Reuters
 
Netanyahu. Sanctions not enough Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO
Netanyahu. Sanctions not enough Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO
 
 

Obama warned Israel against Iran strike

With growing concern over Israeli strike, US administration working to receive assurances from Jerusalem it won't attack nuclear sites, boosting presence in Gulf region

Orly Azoulay
Published: 01.15.12, 09:59 / Israel News

The US administration has spent the last few days working frantically to prevent an Israeli strike on Iran and reinforcing presence in the region in preparation for Iranian counter attacks, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.

 

Israeli state officials suggested Saturday that the sanctions against Tehran were not sufficient, which works to enhance US concern over an Israeli strike.

 

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US President Barack Obama is operating several secret channels to deliver messages to all sides. On Thursday, Obama spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warned him of the serious consequences of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

 

The Wall Street Journal reported that US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top officials have privately sought assurances from Israeli leaders in recent weeks that they won't take military action against Iran and will allow further sanctions to be imposed on the Islamic Republic. It was also reported that US Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv next week.

 

US defense officials claim that the Israeli response has been noncommittal. Some American intelligence officials complain that Israel represents a blind spot in US intelligence, which devotes little resources to Israel, the WSJ said.

 

The officials accused the Israeli security establishment of playing a "good cop, bad cop" routine and increasing uncertainty in Washington.

 

This ambiguity has led the US administration to believe that Netanyahu has plans to attack and the US is therefore preparing for the outcomes of such a strike.

 

The US military is preparing for a number of possible responses to an Israeli strike, including assaults by pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq against the US Embassy in Baghdad, the WSJ said.

 

According to the report, the US has 15,000 troops in Kuwait and has moved a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf area.

 

It has also been pre-positioning aircraft and other military equipment, officials say. Arms transfers to key allies in the Gulf, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have been fast-tracked as a further deterrent, officials say.

 

Disappointment with sanctions

According to messages by Israeli state officials over the weekend, the US is right to be concerned. Israeli officials did not deny reports of growing American concern and sent a clear message that Israel was disappointed with the sanctions against Iran.

 

One source said that without an immediate toughening of sanctions which will include action against Iran's central bank and its ability to export oil, Tehran will never consider halting its nuclear program. They also criticized the fact that the White House failed to adopt a Congress decision to act firmly against Iran's central bank.

 

Netanyahu addressed the matter in an interview with The Australian. "For the first time, I see Iran wobble under the sanctions that have been adopted and especially under the threat of strong sanctions on their central bank," he said. "If these sanctions are coupled with a clear statement by the international community, led by the US, to act militarily to stop Iran if sanctions fail, Iran may consider not going through the pain. There's no point gritting your teeth if you're going to be stopped anyway."

 

US President Obama also sent a firm message to Iran's spiritual leader Ali Khamenei and stressed that closing the Strait of Hormuz would be crossing a red line which would lead to counter action by the US.

 

Yedioth Ahronoth also reported that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz is slated to attend a line of high-profile international events this week. He is scheduled to attend a military chiefs conference in Brussels, hold a meeting with NATO's chief of staff and host US Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Israel.

 

Itamar Eichner and Yossi Yehoshua contributed to this report

 

 

 

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