Rice: Israel can decide for itself on Iran

US secretary of state says "Israel a sovereign country," dismissing speculation of US warning against an attack.

Condoleezza Rice 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Condoleezza Rice 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Israel's right to make its own decision about whether it takes military action against Iran, in an interview released over the weekend. "We don't say yes or no to Israeli military operations. Israel is a sovereign country," she said in response to a question from The Politico Web site as to whether she was concerned that America would be blamed in the case of an IDF attack on the Islamic Republic. Her statements come amid speculation that Washington has warned Jerusalem not to attack Iran and media reports that the US told Israel it doesn't have the green light to use Iraqi airspace for any such attack. At the same time, Rice emphasized diplomacy. "We are in very close contact with the Israelis and we talk about the diplomatic track that we're on," she said. "They've said that diplomacy can work here. And I know they're doing their part to talk to all of the countries with which they have good relations to explain why it's important to have a tough edge to our diplomacy." Asked if she would use the opportunity to tell Israel it shouldn't strike Iran, Rice replied that the US and its international partners announced this week that they would be looking at further sanctions against Iran after it failed to meet another deadline to begin negotiations over its nuclear program, as it continued enriching uranium in defiance of the international community. The US has been holding consultations with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - about beginning work on a fourth sanctions resolution. At the same time, amid indications that will be a slow process, particularly with signs the Russians are hesitant about ratcheting up the sanctions language, the US and EU are taking their own additional measures outside the UN framework. "We're on a diplomatic course and that's the important thing," Rice said. In the interview, she also dismissed the concern that Teheran could hold the world's energy markets hostage because of its large role in the international oil market and its control over a key shipping route. "I don't know what the Iranians would do without the revenue that they receive from selling oil. And so the idea that they would somehow deprive the world of Iranian oil exports would have to have a pretty devastating effect on Iran itself," she said. The interview was released the day before the Institute for Science and International Security published a report arguing that force wouldn't be particularly effective in ending Iran's nuclear threat. In the report, titled "Can military strikes destroy Iran's gas centrifuge program? Probably not," David Albright, ISIS president and a former UN weapons inspector, lays out short-comings including a lack of sufficient intelligence to be able to destroy all of the nuclear production sites, Iran's ability to quickly replicate whatever centrifuges are destroyed, and the likely strengthening of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's domestic standing in the wake of such an attack. Albright and co-authors Paul Brannan and Jacqueline Shire also reject any equivalence between a strike on Iran and that carried out by Israel in Iraq in 1981 to take out the Osirak reactor, or its attack on an alleged incipient reactor in Syria last September. "This analogy is grossly misleading. It neglects the important differences between a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program and a reactor-based program, and fails to account for the dispersed, relatively advanced, and hardened nature of Iran's gas centrifuge facilities," they write. "It also ignores the years Iran has had to acquire centrifuge items abroad, often illicitly, allowing it to create reserve stocks of critical equipment and raw materials."