Pentagon: Israel may attack Iran before 2009
Top Pentagon official warns of 'increased likelihood' of Israeli raid against Iranian nuclear facilities, ABC News reports. US Department of Defense sets two 'red lines' Israel won't tolerate crossed by Iran – Natanz reaching critical level of uranium enrichment, Tehran acquiring Russian air defense system.
A senior Pentagon official was quoted by ABC News as saying there is "an increased likelihood" that Israel will carry out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities before the end of the year.
The Pentagon is concerned such an attack would have massive defense-related and economic repercussions for the US and the world. The top official said the move could prompt Iranian retaliation against the United States in addition to Israel.
The official listed the two "red lines" America believes could be the catalyst to an Israeli offensive. The first – when the Natanz nuclear facility produces a sufficient amount of highly enriched uranium, which US and Israeli intelligence assessments say will happen in 2009, and the second - when Iran acquires the SA-20 air defense system from Russia. Once in place it would make an attack far more difficult.
"The red line is not when they get to that point, but before they get to that point," the official told ABC. "We are in the window of vulnerability."
US defense officials believe a recent Israeli air force exercise is linked to preparations for the attack
"The Israeli air force has already conducted the basic exercise necessary to tell their senior leadership, 'We have the fundamentals down.' Might they need some more training and rehearsals? Yes. But have they done the fundamentals? I think that is what we saw," the official told ABC News.
Bolton: Israel will strike if Obama elected
US military chief Admiral Michael Mullen was in Israel this week for discussions on Iran
The Pentagon tried to play down the visit as a routine engagement. The press office of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that Mullen left the US last Tuesday "to go overseas to visit counterparts as well as combatant commands, and Israel is not his only stop."
Last week former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said he believes Israel will stage a raid against Iran's nuclear facilities if Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama wins the upcoming US presidential elections.
Bolton said the IAF would likely strike in the interim term between election day (November 4th) and the inauguration (January 20th 2009) – while George W. Bush is still in office.
"I don’t think they will do anything before our election because they don’t want to affect it. And they’d have to make a judgment whether to go during the remainder of President Bush’s term in office or wait for his successor."
In a related interview with the British 'Daily Telegraph,' Bolton said he believed the Arab world would be "pleased" by an Israeli strike.
Their reaction, he told the paper "will be positive privately. I think there'll be public denunciations but no action."