As more and more US officials publicly call on Israel not to attack Iran at this
time, Defense Minister Ehud Barak emerged from a two-hour meeting Monday with
visiting US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon saying sovereign nations act
based on their own perception of their interests.
relationship, Barak said at a meeting of his Independence faction shortly after
hosting Donilon, is a relationship between “two sovereign countries, each one
responsible in the final analysis for the decisions it takes for itself and
about its future.”
Barak’s comments came amid a wave of reports citing
unconfirmed sources saying that the US – including Donilon – is pressing Israel
to give more time for international sanctions to work before taking military
action against Iran.
Barak gave little indication of friction with the US
over the issue, saying the discussions with Donilon covered a wide range of
issues, and that the security relationship between Israel and the US was
excellent. He added that the relationship was unique it its “openness, mutual
respect, understanding, attentiveness, and knowledge that at the end of the day
we are talking about two very friendly countries with a very long and deep
connection, that has deepened during the current administration.”
White House put out a statement after the meeting saying that Donilon concluded
three days of talks in Israel that “addressed the full range of security issues
of mutual concern.”
“The visit is part of the continuous and intensive
dialogue between the United States and Israel and reflects our unshakable
commitment to Israel’s security,” the statement said, adding that Donilon
confirmed a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President
Barack Obama for March 5.
Even before that meeting, which is expected to
focus primarily on the Iranian issue, James R. Clapper, Washington’s director of
national intelligence, is expected to come to Jerusalem at the end of the week
for further talks with Israeli officials about Iran.
Clapper serves as
the head of the US intelligence community, acting as the principle advisor to
the president, National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for
intelligence matters related to the national security.
Before going to
Washington, where he will also address the annual AIPAC policy conference,
Netanyahu will go to Ottawa and meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen
The flurry of high-level USIsraeli consultations comes even as
significant US officials are publicly saying this is not the time for an Israeli
strike on Iran.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Army
General Martin Dempsey, said in a CNN interview on Sunday that an Israeli attack
on Iran would be “destabilizing” and “not prudent” at this
Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor stressed to reporters
Monday that Dempsey said an attack was not prudent “at this point.”
said it is not prudent now, but does that mean later?” Meridor
Meridor said the sanctions regime had been toughened to the point
of causing “hysteria” in Iran.
“All this shows the pressure which this
regime is under, but they have not yet decided to shut down their nuclear
effort, so the struggle is on,” he said. “I think there is a chance of success
[for sanctions] if they are done with determination, persistence and
On Monday, Joe Cirincione, of the State Departments
International Security Advisory Board that provides the State Department with
independent advice on security and diplomatic issues, told CBS that it was
uncertain whether an Israeli attack “would do enough damage to actually do much
more than delay the program for a year or so.”
Cirincione said a strike
would not bring about a quick end to this crisis; it would be the beginning of
either a larger war or a long-scale, large-scale containment effort to try to
stop Iran from what they would undoubtedly do, which would be race to build a
bomb. During this period, he warned, oil prices would rise to $200, or even $300
a barrel, which would have severe “repercussions on an already fragile global
Not only American officials were carrying this
On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague publicly
called on Israel to give the sanctions more time, saying that “Israel, like
everyone else in the world, should be giving a real chance to the approach we
adopted: very serious economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, and the
readiness to negotiate with Iran.
Meanwhile, senior UN inspectors arrived
in Iran on Monday to push for transparency, a day after Tehran responded
defiantly to tightened EU sanctions by halting oil sales to British and French
The five-member team from the International Atomic Energy
Agency, led by its Global Inspectorate chief Herman Nackaerts, planned two days
of meetings in another effort to extract answers from Iran regarding its nuclear
Nackaerts said on departure from Vienna that he wanted “concrete
results” from the talks. His delegation was expected to seek, among other
things, to question Iranian nuclear scientists and visit the Parchin military
base believed to have been used for highexplosive tests relevant to nuclear
But Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi dampened speculation
about such visits when he told the student news agency ISNA that the IAEA
officials would not be going to any nuclear sites. “No. Their work has just
begun,” Salehi said.
Meanwhile, diplomats doubted the talks would bring a
“I believe most are rather skeptical concerning the outcome
because, well, Iran had a chance at the last meeting and didn’t seize it,” a
senior Western official said, referring to the last trip by the senior IAEA team
to Tehran at the end of January.
Referring to last week’s announcements
by Iran of new nuclear advances, he said: “They send out the wrong signals that
Iran is really willing to cooperate... We will wait and see what will come out
of this meeting, but we should be prepared that Iran might try some technical
steps... to appear cooperative without really providing the necessary
The European Union enraged Tehran last month when it
decided to slap a boycott on its oil from July 1.
Iran, the world’s
fifth-largest oil exporter, threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the main
Gulf oil shipping lane, in retaliation and the United States signaled it would
use force to keep it open.
The spiking tension has put upward pressure on
On Sunday, Iran’s Oil Ministry announced that it stopped
selling oil to French and British companies, although the move will be largely
symbolic as those firms had already greatly reduced purchases of Iranian
Deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Qalebani suggested the Western crackdown
would backfire, saying that in targeting Iranian oil the West had achieved only
a surge in crude prices from $103 a barrel to $120, “and it will reach
$150.”Reuters contributed to this report.