Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that the US has made it clear it was opposed at the present time to military action against Teheran, but he would not relate to a press report that Washington had denied Israel advanced weaponry and intelligence information for fear Jerusalem was on the verge of an attack.
"The US's position at the present time is that they don't see an action against Iran as the right thing to do," Barak said on Army Radio. "Our position, and formally their position as well, is that no options should be taken off the table. When we say that, we mean it."
Barak avoided relating directly to a Haaretz
story that the US administration denied Israeli requests for certain military items and defensive and security backing that Washington interpreted as a sign that Israel was preparing for an attack. He said it "would not be right" to talk about these maters.
The defense minister, who was in Washington earlier this month for high-level meetings, said Israel was "a strong country that knows what it is doing, and when we say that we are not taking any option off the table, that is what we mean."
Barak said that Israel knew from long experience - and from looking at "examples form the last few days" - that "a small, isolated country like Israel needs in the final analysis to rely on itself, and only itself."
"Our network of ties in the world is very important, certainly our friendship with the US," Barak said. "[But] in critical matters to Israel's future and security, Israel needs to be able to rely on itself."
A US State Department spokesman would not comment on what messages the US had given Israel regarding a possible strike on Iran, because they were part of confidential discussions. He did stress though, that "the US is committed to Israel's security" and that "the US would defend Israel from any attack from Iran."
Two well-connected Washington Post
foreign affairs columnists, however, have reported in recent weeks that the US has sent clear signals to Israel that it does not want to see the Jewish state hit Iran.
Jim Hoagland referred to "strong US public and private pressure on Israel to forgo military strikes" while new UN sanctions on Iran are sought in mid-July.
"Neither government will confirm that such pressure was exerted. Bush hates to say no to Israel, and he and Olmert do not want Iran to think that it now has a free hand on enrichment," he wrote. "But diplomatic and US sources describe the pushback by Washington as intense and say it included indications that the United States would not clear Israeli bombers through Iraqi airspace or provide other logistical support in the event of attack now."
Last week David Ignatius backed up the latter point, reporting that it had been made by both Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during separate June visits to Israel.
He wrote that, "the United States believes an attack isn't necessary now, because the Iranians can't yet build a nuclear weapon," and was opposed to such action because, according to one US official, it would only delay rather than destroy Iran's nuclear program; would bolster Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's domestic position; would hurt US objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan; and would have "unpredictable consequences."
Barak indicated during his visit to Washington, though, that the US was providing Israel with advanced missile defense technology, while other plans - including work on the next generation of the Arrow missile defense system - had yet to be worked out between the two countries.