'Planning underway for other 'options' on Iran'

US envoy: There is "total cooperation" between the US, Israel on issue; Peres notes Israel has right, capacity to defend itself.

February 23, 2012 19:23
4 minute read.
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro

US Ambassador Dan Shapiro 390 (R). (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Not only are all options “on the table” regarding Iran, but planning is under way to ensure those other options can be exercised if it becomes necessary, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said on Thursday.

Shapiro, speaking to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, said coordination between the US and Israel on Iran was extremely close, and included not only intelligence sharing and coordination at the political level, but also cooperation between the militaries to ensure that they have “done the necessary contingency planning.”

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Shapiro spoke to the conference after President Shimon Peres, reading from a prepared text, told the group that Israel was a sovereign state with the “right and the capacity to defend herself against any threat. When we say that all options are on the table, we really mean it.”

Peres denied a Haaretz report claiming he would tell US President Barack Obama during a meeting in Washington scheduled for May 4, a day before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s planned meeting with Obama, that he did not believe Israel should attack Iran. That story, Peres said, was more imagination than information.

Peres’s comments come as senior officials in the US, Britain and Russia all publicly entreated Israel this week not to attack Iran.

Shapiro, during his address, said Obama has made clear numerous times that Washington’s goal was to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The preferred option for achieving that goal was diplomatic and economic pressures, which were beginning to “bite,” the envoy said. But if this did not work, “as the president said, and as we are coordinating with our other partners, all other options are on the table to achieve that goal... and more than that, the necessary planning is being done to ensure that those options are actually available, if at any time they become necessary.”

Shapiro addressed the recent spate of media reports describing divisions between the US and Israel on Iran, saying that “it is often the case that those who talk don’t know, and those who know don’t talk. Much of what is written on this topic is pure speculation and much of it is wrong.”

He praised the level of coordination between the two countries on Iran, saying that about every other week cabinet- level officials travel in one direction or the other for meetings centered on the Islamic Republic.

The visit this week of US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was proof of this, Shapiro said. He described those talks as “very detailed,” and said that “there is no other country in the world, relationship in the world, where senior leaders invest that kind of time to ensure that we have total coordination – and we do.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to travel to Washington next week for a meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, just days before Peres and Netanyahu arrive for meetings with Obama.

Touching on other issues, Shapiro said that, as the American envoy, he took great pride in the success of the Iron Dome anti-missile system – build with Israeli technology and US funds – that has proven successful in shooting down rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.

The anti-missile system has “already made a big difference,” and its success rate is “about 75 percent,” the ambassador said.

According to Shapiro, the system has so far shot down 30 to 40 missiles, and because of its sophisticated radar system does not shoot down missiles headed for open areas.

Besides saving lives, he said, the Iron Dome has also created “political space” for Israel’s leaders by allowing them to decide how and when to respond to rocket attacks, rather than have their hands forced by a “mass casualty event” that he said would greatly limit Israel’s options.

Turning to Egypt, Shapiro – in a reference to the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty – said the US was making clear to Cairo that respect for international treaties and international obligations was “the highest priority in our relationship with them.”

He said that “ensuring that treaty is respected” was critical to the US maintaining the type of partnership it has, and wants to continue to have, with Egypt.

Regarding the Palestinian track, Shapiro said the US was continuing to work “very hard” to help get Israel and the Palestinians into direct and serious negotiations.

Those talks had to be direct and without preconditions, and the US “will oppose any effort by the Palestinians to take this issue back to the United Nations, using the veto where we have to, and through other means where we don’t have a veto,” he said.

As for Washington’s policy toward the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation efforts, Shapiro recommended viewing the announcements of reconciliation with skepticism, since there had been numerous such pronouncements over the years that had led nowhere.

“Nothing significant has been done” to implement the agreement signed recently in Doha, he said.

Shapiro said that the US policy remained the same: The Palestinian government needs to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by past agreements in order to be considered a partner for peace. He also said that the US continued to view Hamas as a terrorist entity.

“For now we are dealing with the Palestinian Authority as it is. If that changes, then of course we will have to make a reassessment,” he said.

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.

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