US aide in Israel over Iran fears

Mon, Feb 20, 2012, 00:00

TOM DONILON, the United States national security adviser, has held talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem amid growing US fears that Jerusalem intends to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, with or without a green light from Washington.

Both Jerusalem and Washington have stated publicly that Iran must be prevented from developing a nuclear bomb. However, whereas the US believes recently-adopted international sanctions must be given a chance to work, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week declared that the sanctions are not working and Iran is pressing ahead with its nuclear programme. Tehran insists its nuclear development is purely for peaceful purposes.

The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Gen Martin Dempsey told CNN yesterday an Israeli attack on Iran would be destabilising.

“It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran. The US government is confident that Israelis understand our concerns. A strike at this time would be destabilising and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” he said, referring to the Israeli leadership.

Gen Dempsey, who visited Israel last month, said the economic sanctions imposed on Iran and international pressure are beginning to impact. “The Iranian regime has not decided to make a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would trigger a Middle East arms race, and tougher sanctions were needed.

“A nuclear Iran is a threat to the whole world, not just to Israel,” he said. He called for “crippling and consequential” sanctions to force Iranian leaders to ask the question if they were ready to pay the price of isolation from most of the world. Next month Mr Netanyahu travels to the US where he will meet President Barack Obama in talks expected to be of crucial importance influencing Israel’s decision if, and when, to act against Iran.