A senior official from U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has expressed frustration that Israel is viewing the Iranian nuclear threat “too narrowly,” considering the heavy pressure being put on Tehran, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
“'Zone of immunity’ is an ill-defined term,” the U.S. official told The New York Times, in reference to a term coined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to identify the scenario he believes Iran is approaching in which “practically no surgical operation” could stop it from producing a nuclear bomb.
The U.S. official said the basis of the Israeli argument is that once the Iranians reach “impregnable breakout capability” — meaning they have reached a level in which they are protected from a military attack — “it makes no difference whether it will take Iran six months or a year or five years” to fabricate a nuclear weapon.
However, the Americans differ on this view according to another senior official who has discussed the issue with Israeli officials. He told The New York Times that, “there are many other options” to curb Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb. These include “shutting off Iran’s oil revenues, taking out facilities that supply centrifuge parts or singling out installations where the Iranians would turn the fuel into a weapon,” The New York Times said.
U.S. officials refer to this “bigger picture” when trying to convince Jerusalem to give the latest round of sanctions more time to cause enough damage on the regime in Tehran so that it is forced it to return to the negotiating table with the West, or so that it concludes that the nuclear program is not worth the cost, The New York Times said.
Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday said Israel’s increasing speculation over Iran’s nuclear intentions could have “catastrophic consequences,” senior Russian Foreign Ministry official Mikhail Ulyanov was quoted as saying by AFP.
Russia, which has so far supported sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council, has made clear that it is unwilling to support a new round of economic pressure on Tehran.
“The inventions” regarding Iran’s nuclear program “are increasing the tension and could encourage moves toward a military solution with catastrophic consequences,” Ulyanov was quoted by AFP as telling the Interfax news agency.
Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that Israel may soon launch air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities to delay or stop its nuclear program.
The “noise” about Iran’s nuclear ambitions “has political and propaganda objectives which are far from being inoffensive,” AFP quoted Ulyanov, who is head of the security and disarmament department in the Russian Foreign Ministry, as saying.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said he believes Israel may strike Iran as early as April.
But Ulyanov disregarded the speculation, saying, “In our evaluations we prefer to be based on the actual facts, which are that Iran’s nuclear activity is under strict monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).