iran map nuclear 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran's nuclear facilities are too vast to be destroyed by a single air attack so Israel is unlikely to bomb it to forestall Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, a senior United States official said on Tuesday.
"We do not have enough information about the Iranian nuclear program to be confident that you could destroy it in a single attack. The worst thing you could do is try and not succeed," the official said. He spoke in advance of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to Washington next Sunday.
In considering Israel's military options regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, the official said one should not be swayed by the ease with which Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear program in 1981 with a single raid against the Osirak nuclear reactor.
"This is a much more difficult problem militarily than taking on Saddam Hussein's [nuclear] program," he said. In Iran there are as many as 200 sites that are part of their nuclear program, although some are more important than others, he noted.
As a result, he said, "I do not see that Israel is going to do something like that. ... In all our conversations, thus far, Israel has stressed that this is an international problem. Israel does not want to make it an Israeli problem. Israel is committed to the political approach that the international community it taking,' added the official.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni concurred in speaking to The Jerusalem Post. Livni said that "control of the nuclear game was in the hands of the great powers." She added, "I expect that the [key international players] will go for sanctions - and severe sanctions, not soft ones - for their own sake.
The US official said the text of UN sanctions against Iran would be discussed with Olmert when the Israeli leader met with the US President George Bush in Washington next Monday.
The hope, he said, is to prevent an arms race in the region by changing the policies of the regime. Still, he said, the fear that Iran would soon have the capacity of producing nuclear weapons has had some positive effects on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is pushing moderate Arab states to work to resolve the problem.
"They want to reduce to the greatest extent possible the friction created by the Israeli-Palestinian dispute," he remarked.
Regarding Iraq, he said, "I do not see the United States withdrawing from Iraq in the next two years." He did not believe such a withdrawal would promote stability.
He spoke of the close ties between Israel and the United States, but noted that there were some disagreements. The US is asking Israel to stop its surveillance flights over Lebanon and to find the intelligence information they provide from other sources.
The US, he said, shares Israel's concern that Syria and Iran may not be abiding by the arms embargo imposed on Hizbullah and said the embargo needed to be monitored.
"We strongly support Israel's right to defend itself and we recognize the value of some of these flights," said the official. The risk, he said, is that the overflights "provide a pretext for Hizbullah" to accuse Israel of not abiding by UN resolution 1701, which calls for Israel to withdraw from Lebanon.
In the absence of the over-flights, he declined to explain how Israel would acquire surveillance information.
Equally in Gaza the US respects Israel right to defend itself against Hamas rockets launched into Israel, but at the same time it should minimize operations in Gaza.
"At this time we think a military strategy alone is not sufficient, there has be a political component," he asserted.
According to the official, the United States is not directly involved in talks on the release of the two IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev that were kidnapped by Hizbullah in July 2006.
"I believe that the process has moved forward but until it reaches results, we can not talk about progress, he said.
David Horovitz contributed to this report.