Israeli facilities worldwide are on high alert against an attack from Iran, according to an internal security document obtained by ABC News
"We predict that the threat on our sites around the world will increase … on both our guarded sites and 'soft' sites," read a letter by the head of security for the Consul General for the Mid-Atlantic States, ABC News reported. Guarded sites are government facilities like embassies and consulates; "soft sites" are Jewish synagogues, schools and community centers.
Police and intelligence officials in U.S. and Canadian cities — including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Toronto — have increased patrols at Israeli government locations and Jewish institutions, ABC News reported.
The United States and Israel, meanwhile, are publicly disagreeing over timing for a potential attack on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, Bloomberg News reported.
“There’s a growing concern — more than a concern — that the Israelis, in order to protect themselves, might launch a strike without approval, warning or even foreknowledge,” Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator in the Clinton administration, said Friday.
The two nations have a “significant analytic difference” over estimates of how close Iran is to shielding its nuclear program from attack, Miller said. The differing views were underscored by public comments Thursday by senior Israeli and U.S. defense officials.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel must consider “an operation” before Iran reaches an “immunity zone,” referring to Iran’s goal of protecting its uranium enrichment and other nuclear operations by moving them to deep underground facilities such as one at Fordo, near the holy city of Qom.
“Today, unlike the past, the world has no doubt that Iran’s nuclear program is steadily nearing readiness and is about to enter an immunity zone,” Barak said in an address to the annual Herzliya Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center academic campus north of Tel Aviv.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declined to comment directly on a report by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.
“Israel has indicated that they’re considering this” through public statements, Panetta told reporters traveling with him in Brussels Thursday. “And we have indicated our concerns.”
Israelis think Iran will reach the immunity zone in “half the time the Americans think it will,” Miller told Bloomberg News on Friday. Even so, he added, “to take that difference and talk about a growing rift” between Israel and the United States “is by and large an overstatement.”
Panetta stressed Friday that the United States and Israel are in agreement on the need to do what is necessary to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. “We’ve made very clear that they cannot develop a nuclear weapon,” Panetta told troops at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Bloomberg News reported.
Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s vice prime minister and its former top military commander, said Iran still doubts international resolve to take military action against it.
“The Iranians believe that the determination still isn’t there, both in regards to military action and in regards to sanctions,” Yaalon told the Herzliya conference a few hours before Barak spoke. “It’s possible to strike all Iran’s facilities.”
Israeli leaders have said their country is able to withstand Iranian retaliation, said Ephraim Kam, deputy director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, pointing to a Nov. 8 statement by Barak that “in any scenario there won’t be 50 thousand or 5,000 or even 500 dead.”
The head of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, told a closed forum in Tel Aviv recently that Iran is targeting Israeli sites because of what it believes are Israeli attacks on its nuclear scientists, ABC News reported.
Yoram Cohen said that Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the same militant wing of the government linked to the recent alleged plot against the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., is plotting attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets abroad in order to deter Israel.
"The thwarted assassination plot of a Saudi official in Washington, D.C., a couple of months ago was an important data point," U.S. official told ABC, "in that it showed at least parts of the Iranian establishment were aware of the intended event and were not concerned about inevitable collateral damage to U.S. citizens had they carried out an assassination plot on American soil."
After the disruption of the alleged assassination plot, regional intelligence centers issued bulletins similar to the recent Israeli warning, including one saying Israeli passports might be used by terrorists.
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