New U.S. assessment says Iran has made “substantial and surprising” progress • White House spokesman: “We would know if and when Iran made … a breakout move toward acquiring a weapon” • Jerusalem downplays potential damage to Israel if it attacks Iran.
Shlomo Cesana, Yoni Hirsch, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Satff
The rift between Israel and the U.S. has grown as the two countries remain at odds over the timetable for a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program. The matter has become especially pressing with the release of a purported new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report, presented to U.S. President Barack Obama last week, which states that Iran has made “substantial and surprising” progress and boosted its efforts to attach a nuclear warhead to ballistic missiles.
Both countries have stressed that they are sharing the same information, and agree about Iranian intentions, its progress and the fact that it has not abided by international obligations, but the difference remains which policy to employ to combat the nuclear program.
Israel says time is running out and that the window of opportunity to attack Iran will only be open for several more months. Israel believes that action must be taken, either by issuing an ultimatum to Iran or by hitting its nuclear sites.
The U.S. contends there is still time before a military strike is necessary. White House Spokesman Jay Carney said Friday that the U.S. would know whether Iran was close to building a nuclear weapon.
“I would also say that we have eyes — we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made what’s called a breakout move toward acquiring a weapon,” said Carney.
Carney later clarified that he was referring to International Atomic Energy Agency officials mandated to inspect Iran’s nuclear installations.
During his recent visit to Israel, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta outlined a problematic red line for Israel. According to Panetta, the red line for the U.S. is an Iranian decision to make a bomb. Israel’s red line is preventing Iran from becoming a “threshold state” — a country that is capable of making a nuclear weapon but has yet to decide to do so.
Senior Israeli officials have expressed themselves anonymously, but harshly, against the Obama administration, saying that it is clear to everyone involved that the desired decisions could be made but are not because of the presidential elections in November.