WikiLeaks: 'Israel overestimating Iranian nuke program'
WikiLeaks documents reveal that Israel's attempt to convey sense of urgency, its contradicting assessments on when Iran would achieve nuclear ability made US officials take its warnings 'with a grain of salt'. One US diplomat noted it was not clear whether Israelis themselves believed their own assessments
The hundreds of thousands of documents made public by the WikiLeaks website on Sunday revealed the enormous pressure Israel and Arab countries put on the United States to pursue military action against Iran, however some of the papers could also explain why Washington avoided an attack.
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According to the documents, some elements in the White House and State Department believed Israel overestimated the Iranian nuclear program and that its evaluations should be taken "with a grain of salt. "
US officials are documented expressing concern over the Israeli assessments suggesting that the Islamic Republic is getting closer to manufacturing nuclear weapons, The elements stressed that back in 1993 Israel claimed that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1998 at the latest.
In a 2005 cable sent by then US Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer to Washington he stated that Israeli state officials provided different estimates as to the time by which Iran was likely to succeed enriching uranium. The cable stated that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the secretary of state he believed there was time to pressure Iran but that the window of opportunities was closing rapidly, and that then Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz warned that Iran was a year away from its goal.
Kurtzer also indicated there was internal Israeli criticism on the estimates and noted that some state officials said off the record that the estimates should be taken cautiously.
Another American diplomat noted it was not clear whether the Israelis themselves believed what they were saying or were using the worst case scenario to create a sense of urgency in the US. One of the documents shows that Mossad chief Meir Dagan told a US politician that nothing will stop Iran from going nuclear and that the facts on the matter are uncontested, despite differences in opinion between Israel and the US.
According to the documents, Dagan was perceived in the US as a pessimist when it came to Iran, however one White House individual described him as "surprisingly optimistic" in mid 2007 in the backdrop of planned UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The US Embassy in Israel also reported that in private talks that Israeli officials admitted that a strike on Iran would be much harder to carry out than the attack on the Iraqi reactor had been. The embassy warned that it may not be possible to discover the Israeli preparations for an attack ahead of time and noted that air-defense activity would be used to cover for Air Force activity prior to any attack.
The papers also reveal the extent to which the US's Arab allies pushed it to launch a military strike against Iran.
One of the documents states that the Saudi king pushed the US to pursue military action to end its nuclear program.
The Egyptians also pressured the US. According to a 2007 cable by then US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones Congressman Gary Ackerman met with then Opposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and told him that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had told him that the US, and not Israel, should be the one to attack Iran if needed.
The documents show that Jordanian, Bahraini and UAE officials also called to stop the Iranian nuclear program at any cost, including military action.
A 2006 document reveals that the Abu Dhabi prince warned the US of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said an attack should be carried out within a year at the most. The paper suggests that the prince was convinced that either Israel or the US would eventually attack Iranian nuclear sites. He said that a conventional war was preferable to the repercussions of a nuclear Iran.
Yitzhak Benhorin and Roee Nahmias contributed to this report
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