Israel won't warn US of any Iran strike

2012-02-28 22:32

Washington - Israeli officials say they will not warn the US if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations with US officials, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and in Congress.

Israeli officials said that if they eventually decide a strike is necessary, they would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the US would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel's potential attack, said one US intelligence official familiar with the discussions.

The US has been working with the Israelis for months to convince them that an attack would be only a temporary setback to Iran's nuclear programme.

Israeli defence officials confirmed that there are no plans to alert the US ahead of time about any operation against Iran, though they stressed no decisions have been made on whether to attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a confidential security matter.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak delivered the message to a series of high-level US  visitors to the country.

These included the chairperson of the joint chiefs of staff, the White House national security adviser, the director of national intelligence and top US lawmakers, all trying to close the trust gap between Israel and the US 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 US official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic negotiations.

The White House declined to comment, as did the Pentagon and office of director of national intelligence.

Iran claims its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, but the international atomic energy agency (IAEA) has raised alarms that its uranium enrichment programme might be a precursor to building nuclear weapons. 

Secret warning

The US has said it does not know whether the government has decided to weaponise its nuclear material and put it on a missile or other delivery device.

The secret warning is likely to worry US officials and begin the high-level meetings with Israel and the US far apart on how to handle Iran.

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.<-p>

US intelligence and special operations officials have tried to keep a dialogue going with Israel despite the high-level impasse.

This includes offering options such as allowing Israel to use US bases in the region to launch such a strike, as a way to make sure the Israelis give the Americans a heads-up, according to the US official and a former US official with knowledge of the communications.

Co-operation has improved on sharing of intelligence in the region, according to one current and one former US official.

Israel is providing key information on Syria, for instance, now that the US has closed its embassy and pulled out its diplomats and intelligence officials stationed there, the US official said.


- AP

Read more on:    ehud barak  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  us  |  iran  |  middle east peace  |  iran nuclear programme
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