IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is to meet his US counterparts in Washington next week for talks aimed at convincing the Obama administration of the urgency of acting against Iran’s nuclear programme.
Senior Israeli military sources have made it clear that a decision on an Israeli strike against Iran will top the agenda of a new government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu.
A defence source said: “Decisions will have to be reached very soon. We have to be very clear on the implications of a strike on Iran — it could quite easily lead to a regional conflict, with Iran’s proxies, Hizbollah and Hamas, also involved.”
General Ashkenazi’s visit to the US is intended to fill a gap in US-Israeli coordination caused by the change of both governments.
One of Mr Netanyahu’s priorities will be to appoint a senior official to oversee the strategic dialogue with the US.
In the last year of the Bush administration, the US made it clear that they did not believe the time had come for an attack on Iran. But as the intelligence reports accumulate on Iran’s rapid advance towards a military nuclear capability, Israel is seeking to agree a time-limit for the use of diplomatic efforts and sanctions.
Officials in Jerusalem have also complained of receiving mixed signals from the new US administration. Last week, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that the Iranians were not yet close to achieving a nuclear bomb. However, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, appeared to contradict him in an interview on Sunday when he said that Iran already had enough uranium for a nuclear weapon.
President Barack Obama has emphasised that he plans to engage Iran diplomatically to persuade it to abandon its military nuclear plans. But his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, told a closed meeting at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference on Monday that she was doubtful as to whether the Iranian regime would respond to the administration’s diplomatic initiatives.