US to Israel: We'll Attack Iran if Certain Nuclear Lines Are Crossed

Wednesday, 28 Dec 2011 01:01 PM

By Dan Weil

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White House officials are letting Israel know that there are certain red lines that, if crossed, would trigger an attack on Iran, so there’s no need for Israel to move unilaterally, The Daily Beast reports.

Israel has expressed dismay at past indications from the Obama administration that it would be reluctant to consider a military attack against Iran to prevent the rogue nation from gaining nuclear weapons.

Matthew Kroenig, who served as special adviser on Iran to the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2010-2011, listed some possible red lines in a recent story he wrote for Foreign Affairs.

The Foreign Affairs article stated the United States should attack Iran’s facilities if that nation kicks out international nuclear weapons inspectors, starts enriching its inventory of uranium to weapons-grade levels of 90 percent, or installs advanced centrifuges at its main uranium-enrichment center in Qom.

“Progress on new [uranium enrichment] facilities would be a major factor in our assessment of Iran’s nuclear program and shape all aspects of our policy toward this, including the decision to use force,” Kroenig told The Daily Beast.

Until recently, White House officials shied away from public talk of an attack against Iran, hinting only vaguely that all options are on the table.

Israel was particularly worried by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s comments earlier this month that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could “consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret.”

In a dangerous pre-election dance, President Barack Obama hopes to both prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capability and Israel from initiating an attack that could lead to a wider conflagration in the Mideast.

Israeli fears were reflected in a Dec. 24 speech by Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, Moshe Ya’alon. The West must incorporate four elements into its plan to stop Iran from going nuclear, and the last one is a military attack if necessary, he said.

“The fourth element of this combined strategy is the credible military strike,” Ya’alon said, according to a recording of the speech provided to The Daily Beast. “There is no credible military action when we hear leaders from the West, saying, ‘this is not a real option,’ or saying, ‘the price of military action is too high.’ ”

The Obama and Netanyahu administrations have faced tension over the Iran issue since Obama took office in 2009. The White House wants Netanyahu to ask for permission before launching a strike -- or at least give significant advance notice. Israel has declined.

Efforts at resolving the tension intensified this month. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak came to Washington to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Robert Einhorn, a special arms control adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, traveled to Israel last week for the same reason.

Panetta changed his tune a bit last week, telling CBS News that the United States would use force if necessary to eliminate Iran’s nuclear option. So now the two nations are discussing what red-line triggers would prompt military action.


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