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US urges Israeli patience on Iran

Ahead of PM Netanyahu's visit to United States, US officials say Washington is 'trying to make the decision to attack Iran as hard as possible for Israel'

Ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington next week, White House officials said that the US' stance on a possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is clear.

 

"We're trying to make the decision to attack Iran as hard as possible for Israel," an administration official, speaking anonymously, told the Washington Post.

 

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White House officials said that for now, both the Democrats and the Republicans feel that a strike would be premature and that the diplomatic efforts and international sanctions have yet to exhaust themselves.

 

"Obama plans to caution Netanyahu against attacking Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months, urging patience while international economic sanctions take full effect," the report said.

 


אובמה ונתניהו בפגישתם האחרונה בבית הלבן (צילום: רויטרס)

Obama and Netanyahu (Archives: GPO)

 

Israel maintains that time is running out and that the West must find a way to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions in the immediate future.

 

The US, however, is still hesitant: While the administration has voiced adamant intention to prevent Iran from containing nuclear weapons, it has yet to make the leap to declaring it wants to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, i.e. – its civilian and nuclear efforts – altogether.

 

Many within the administration also fear that a preemptive strike by Israel may spark a regional war. Obama himself said Thursday that "Nobody has declared war on Iran – yet."

 

Netanyahu and Obama's talks are likely to focus on the effectiveness of sanctions and the perils of a unilateral Israeli attack. "People really don’t want war," a second administration official said. "They really don't."

 

Washington officials said that Obama is likely to attempt to reassure the Israeli prime minister of the US' resolve and commitment to Israel's security, while urging patience and signaling to Iran that the two allies agree on the importance of stopping it from getting a nuclear weapon.

 

In an interview published Friday in Atlantic Magazine, Obama said that "the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff.

 

"At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally (Syria) is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as the victim?” Obama said in the interview.

 

Still, Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently warned that Iran is approaching what he calls "the zone of immunity," a milestone after which an attack would perhaps prove ineffective in setting back the Iranian program.

 

"When the chips are down and there's a lot at stake, the Israeli prime minister still calls the president of the United States," Dennis Ross, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who served as Obama's senior adviser on Israel and Iran, said. 

 

Iran insists that its nuclear program serves a civilian purpose only, but the West – backed by IAEA findings – believes that to be untrue.

  

 

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פרסום ראשון: 03.03.12, 15:30
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