US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is scheduled to meet Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Sunday evening for talks on Iran, a day after
the head of the US military said an Israeli attack now would not be
This will be Donilon’s first visit here as US President Barack
Obama’s national security adviser, having replaced James Jones in October
Jones was the last national security adviser to visit Israel, doing
so in January 2010 for talks that also centered on Iran.
The White House
issued a statement saying Donilon will be in Israel from Saturday to Monday for
consultations with senior officials about a range of issues, including “Iran,
Syria and other regional security issues.” The statement said Donilon’s visit
was the “latest in a series of regular, high-level consultations between the
United States and Israel, consistent with our strong bilateral partnership and
part of our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”
government officials did not provide any more details regarding the visit by the
national security adviser, which, while not rare, is also not
Donilon is the latest in a parade of high-level visitors to both
country’s capitals in recent weeks, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Mossad head Tamir Pardo in Washington, and a
visit here last month by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen.
Dempsey, in a CNN interview to be broadcast on Sunday,
said an Israeli attack on Iran would be “destabilizing.”
prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran,” he said, according to an
emailed transcript. The US government is confident that Israelis “understand our
“A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t
achieve their long-term objectives,” Dempsey said of the Israeli leadership. “I
wouldn’t suggest, sitting here today, that we’ve persuaded them that our view is
the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion.”
said the economic sanctions imposed on Iran and international pressure are
beginning to have an effect, without elaborating.
“We are of the opinion
that Iran is a rational actor,” Dempsey said. “We also know, or we believe we
know, that the Iranian regime has not decided” to make a nuclear weapon, he
Netanyahu, during a visit to Cyprus on Thursday, said that while he
hoped the international sanctions work, “so far they have not.” The prime
minister said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s high-profile “guided
tour” last week of the country’s “centrifuge hall” was evidence that Tehran
remained committed to continuing its nuclear program.
follows Iran’s indication on Friday that it was willing to return to talks,
after the world powers leading the negotiations received a formal letter from
Tehran to do so.
“We think this is an important step and we welcome the
letter,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said following a meeting with EU
foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Clinton described the Iranian
letter as appearing to accept that its nuclear program would be a subject of
talks, whereas it has refused to broach the topic in earlier rounds of
Ashton, who appeared alongside Clinton at a US State Department press conference, also described the letter as having “no
preconditions and a recognition of what we’ll be talking about,” but said that
it must be possible to “sustain” new negotiations. Therefore, she said the world
powers – the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – “need to set in
train the process whereby we can be clear what it is we mean to achieve and what
we’re expecting from the Iranians.”
Both leaders said they were still
evaluating the letter and formulating their formal response.
letter to Ashton, which was obtained by Reuters on Thursday, proposed resuming
the stalled talks and said Tehran would have “new initiatives” to bring to the
But the brief letter, which responded to a letter Ashton sent to
her Iranian counterpart in October, offered no specific proposals, leaving a
question mark over Tehran’s willingness to enter substantive negotiations on its
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said
Washington and its allies would be on guard against any more “false starts” to
the negotiation process.
“We’ve had negotiations that started and
fizzled, or negotiations that ate up a lot of time and didn’t go where they
needed to go,” Nuland said.
“We want to make sure... if we go forward,
and a decision has not been made, that it is well-planned, well-coordinated
among us and that we’re absolutely clear as a unified group about our
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said on Thursday that
a visit to Iran on Monday and Tuesday by top UN nuclear watchdog officials would
help determine whether Tehran was serious about tackling international
The UN team, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s
chief inspector, will again try to extract Iranian explanations, after three
years of stonewalling, for an IAEA investigation driven by intelligence reports
that suggest Tehran has researched sophisticated ways to build atomic
Following an IAEA report in November that cast new doubts over
Iran’s nuclear work, the United States and the EU adopted sanctions meant to
shut down Iran’s oil export industry, the world’s fifth-largest.
clampdown on Iranian oil is to take full effect in July, and to join an
escalating range of UN and unilateral sanctions that Western officials say are
putting unprecedented pressure on the Islamic Republic’s economy.
said the world powers, known as the P5+1, made no headway in their last talks
with Iran on the nuclear issue in Istanbul in January 2011.
question really is to look at, then, where we left off in Istanbul,” Ashton
said, noting a series of suggested confidence-building measures such as greater
scope for inspections.
“We also said at that time they could come forward
with their own ideas about what they wanted to do, so that this was a genuine,
open process,” she said.
Clinton, however, stressed that “we must be
assured that, if we make a decision to go forward, we see a sustained effort by
Iran to come to the table, to work until we have reached an outcome that has
Iran coming back into compliance with their international
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.