Israel can rely on the US to take the necessary steps – including possible
military action one day – to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, Michele
Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy, has told The Jerusalem
Speaking following US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to
Israel on Wednesday, Flournoy said Obama was serious about stopping
“[US President Barack] Obama is careful with what he says and he
means what he says,” said Flournoy, who left the Pentagon earlier this year and
is now a member of the Obama campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee.
She is also rumored to be a candidate for secretary of defense if Obama wins
“He chose his words carefully that the policy is not
containment and I think he is serious about that,” she added, giving as examples
how the president has followed through on his policy statements regarding Iraq,
Afghanistan and in the war against al-Qaida.
“My experience with this
president is that there is no light between what he says and does. Obviously, it
will be his decision at the time, but I believe there is a strong consensus to
prevent this [Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon],” she added.
who is familiar with Israel’s top defense chiefs including Defense Minister Ehud
Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz from her three years at the
Pentagon – admitted that Israel and the US view the Iranian threat differently,
and the time that remains to stop it, mostly as a result of their different
She said though that both Israeli and American
intelligence agencies agreed that the Iranians have not yet begun
“weaponization” and that once they do so, it will still take time before they
obtained a weapon.
“The US view is that it is not time [for a strike].
There have just been new sanctions put in place and those take time but the
screws have been turned and the impact will take several months,” she
One of the additional reasons for hesitation in taking military
action, Flournoy explained, was that most assessments are that a strike would
only set back the Iranians by one-to-three years.
“Any military action –
at best – is a delay tactic and does not ultimately solve the problem, so how
and when you take the action matters, since the day after, you will need the
international community to stay unified so Iran does not restart,” she said.
“But if you do it in a way that destroys the international consensus then you
have a tactical step that undermines the strategic goal.”
Israel’s claim that Iran is close to moving into what Barak has coined the
“immunity zone” – the point when an Israeli strike might no longer be viable –
Obama’s top adviser said she believed there was still time.
“I think they
will continue to monitor the impact of the sanctions and see if additional
sanctions can add to the pressure, but it is hard to put a timeframe on it. They
are watching for the impact,” Flournoy said.
Under Obama, she claimed,
Israel-US defense ties have taken an impressive leap forward.
Israel-US ties were “like a marriage” and that while there were differences over
policy sometimes, the US commitment to Israel’s security was
“The quality of the relationship – both the amount of
interaction and the quality – has increased substantially in terms of comparing
notes on the full range of strategic issues in the region, in terms of people
understanding Israel’s concerns and security needs and what it means to ensure
[Israel’s] qualitative military edge,” Flournoy said. “It is really the
intensity and depth of the interaction that has grown a lot.”
former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy fueled speculation of an impending Israeli
strike against Iran’s nuclear program.
“If I were an Iranian, I would be
very fearful of the next 12 weeks,” Halevy told The New York Times on
The Times reported that some American officials believe Israel
might attack Iran this year.