(Bloomberg) The U.S. and Israel are publicly disagreeing over timing for a potential attack on Iran’s disputed nuclear facilities, as that nation’s leader said it won’t back down.
The U.S. and Israel have a “significant analytic difference” over estimates of how close Iran is to shielding its nuclear program from attack, Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator in the Clinton administration, said today.
“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,” he said in an interview.
The differing views were underscored by public comments this week by senior Israeli and U.S. defense officials.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday that Israel must consider conducting “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.
“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 campus north of Tel Aviv. “If the sanctions don’t achieve their goal of halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, there will arise the need of weighing an operation,” Barak said.
The U.S. holds the view that “there is still time and space to pursue diplomacy” with Iran over its nuclear program, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said today in Washington. He added that the U.S. “is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”
In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today that his nation won’t abandon its nuclear efforts and warned that a strike against the nuclear program would damage U.S. interests in the Middle East “10 times over,” according to the Associated Press. He said, without providing details, that he would disclose a letter that he said President Barack Obama sent Iran’s leaders.