- Mean U.S. would not be held responsible, says Israel
Last updated at 1:25 AM on 29th February 2012
Israel said it will not warn the U.S. if it decides to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, American intelligence has revealed.
Officials said they would keep America in the dark so that the U.S. would not be held responsible for failing to stop the attack.
The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and Capitol Hill.
No warning: U.S. President Barack Obama (left) will not be told if Israel decides to launch a strike on Iran, Israel PM Benjamin Netanhyhu (right) has said
The U.S. has been working with the Israelis for months to persuade them that an attack would be only a temporary setback to Iran’s nuclear programme.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered the message to a series of top-level U.S. visitors to the country.
They included the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House national security adviser, the director of national intelligence, and top U.S. lawmakers.
All were trying to close the trust gap between Israel and the U.S. over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Netanyahu delivered the same message to all the Americans who have travelled to Israel for talks, the U.S. official said in an off-the-record briefing.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment, and the Pentagon and Office of Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, as did the Israeli Embassy.
Iran claims its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised alarm that its uranium enrichment programme might be a precursor to building nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has said it does not know whether the Iranian government has decided to ‘weaponise’ its nuclear material and put it on a missile or other delivery device.
IRAN 1, ISRAEL 0: OSCAR VICTORY OVER ENEMY
The Iranian government has hailed the success of a homegrown film at Sunday’s Academy Awards as a victory over Israel.
‘A Separation’ by director Asghar Farhadi won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Picture beating Israeli director Joseph Cedar’s ‘Footnote’.
In a state TV broadcast Javad Shamaghdari, head of the state Cinematic Agency, hailed the win as the ‘beginning of the collapse’ of Israeli influence that ‘beats the drum of war’ in the U.S. and elsewhere.
He later claimed the Oscar meant ‘American judgment was bowed to the Iranian culture’.
The film explores troubles in Iranian society through the story of a collapsing marriage.
It tells the story of a couple heading for divorce and dealing with domestic troubles, including a young child and an aging parent.
Iranian conservatives were upset with the themes of domestic turmoil, gender inequality and the desire by many Iranians to leave the country.
In his acceptance speech Mr Farhadi said he hoped the Oscar would raise awareness of Iran’s sizable artistic achievements and rich culture that has been ‘hidden under the heavy dust of politics’.
Surprisingly the film has been a huge hit in Israel, where tens of thousands of movie-goers have flocked to see it since it opened earlier this month.
The secret warning is likely to worry U.S. officials and begin the high level meetings with Israel and the U.S. far apart on how to handle Iran.
But the apparent decision to keep the U.S. in the dark also stems from Israel’s frustration with the White House.
After a visit by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in particular, they became convinced the Americans would neither take military action, nor go along with unilateral action by Israel against Iran.
The Israelis concluded they would have to conduct a strike unilaterally – a point they are likely to hammer home in a series of meetings over the next two weeks in Washington, the official said.
Barak will meet with top administration and congressional officials during his visit. Netanyahu arrives in Washington for meetings with President Barack Obama next week.
The behind-the-scenes warning belies the publicly united front the two sides have attempted to craft with the shuttle diplomacy to each other’s capitals.
‘It’s unprecedented outreach to Israel to make sure we are working together to develop the plan to deter Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and to keep them from exporting terrorism,’ said Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.
He travelled there with the intelligence committee chairman, Republican Mike Rogers, to meet Israel’s prime minister and defence minister, along with other officials.
‘We talked about the fact that sanctions are working and they are going to get a lot more aggressive,’ Ruppersberger added.
They also discussed talked about presenting a unified front to Iran, to counter the media reports that the two countries are at odds over how and when to attack.
He said: ‘We have to learn from North Korea. All those (peace) talks and stalling and they developed a nuclear weapon.
‘We are going to send a message, enough is enough, the stalling is over. … All options are on the table.’
Rogers told CNN yesterday: ‘I got the sense that Israel is incredibly serious about a strike on their nuclear weapons programme.
‘It’s their calculus that the administration … is not serious about a real military consequence to Iran moving forward.
‘They believe they’re going to have to make a decision on their own, given the current posture of the United States.’
U.S. intelligence and special operations officials have tried to keep a dialogue going with Israel, despite the high-level impasse.
They have shared with them options such as allowing Israel to use U.S. bases in the region from which to launch such a strike, as a way to make sure the Israelis give the Americans a heads-up, according to the U.S. official.
Co-operation has improved on sharing of intelligence in the region, according to one current and one former U.S. official.
Israel is providing key information on Syria for instance, now that the U.S. has closed its embassy and pulled out both its diplomats and intelligence officials stationed there, the U.S. official said.