Obama sends top security aide to Israel as tension builds over nuclear Iran (TELEGRAPH UK) By Phoebe Greenwood in Tel Aviv 02/19/12)
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A senior US security official arrived in Israel on Saturday as
international tension over Iran´s nuclear development reached an all-
Tom Donilon, the US president´s top security aide, arrived in Tel
Aviv on Saturday morning for three days of meetings with Israeli
defence and security chiefs.
While Washington claims the visit is simply the latest in a series
of "regular, high level consultations between the United States and
Israel", it came just days after coordinated attacks launched against
Israeli embassies across the world provoked outrage in Jerusalem,
which claims with certainly that Iran is responsible.
Israel´s option of launching a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities
was expected to be the urgent topic of discussion during Mr Donilon´s
Hours before he arrived Iran´s navy claimed its warships entered the
Mediterranean to show its ´might´ to regional countries.
In recent weeks, Israeli government officials have remained
resolutely tight-lipped on their position on the Iranian threat but a
string of high-ranking US officials have expressed the belief that
Israel is preparing to act, with or without American support.
The rising tensions came as Foreign Secretary William Hague warned in
Saturday´s edition of The Daily Telegraph of the danger of a nuclear
Cold War in the Middle East because of Iran´s nuclear programme.
Mr Donilon´s visit follows a trip by Mossad chief Tamir Pardo to
Washington in December to discuss the possibility of military action
against Iran, in which the security chief asked his counterparts in
the CIA what the US reaction would be to an independent Israeli
attack on Tehran.
In an interview with the New York Times late last year, Ehud Barak,
Israel´s minister of defence, suggested that an Israeli strike on
Iran is all but inevitable.
General Uzi Eilam, a former director general of Israel´s ministry of
defence, revealed earlier this week that he may be "among the only
ones [Israeli defence officials]" who does not think a strike is
He added that the perception of Iran´s nuclear threat has, in his
opinion, been overblown. "I don´t accept that there has been an
urgent deterioration [in attempts to prevent a nuclear Iran]," he
"I would be more reserved as far as ringing the big bell goes. But if
a country like Iran is determined to develop a nuclear weapon, sooner
or later they will get there. If a poor country like North Korea can
do it, so can Iran. The question is: how soon can they get there?"
Iran remains adamant that its nuclear development is for peaceful
purposes. It announced three significant advances this week,
including the development of centrifuges capable of producing higher
quality enriched uranium in a bigger quantities and more quickly that
its old technology.
A letter written by Tehran expressing a willingness to discuss its
nuclear activity was received with cautious optimism on Friday.
Victoria Nuland, the US State Department spokeswoman, said Washington
and its allies were wary of "false starts" to a negotiation process.
"We´ve had negotiations that started and fizzled, or negotiations
that ate up a lot of time and didn´t go where they needed to go,"
Israel is yet to react to the letter. Following the botched attempts
to bomb Israeli embassy staff in Israel, Georgia and Thailand, Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the international community
to "draw a red line" under Tehran´s efforts to promote terrorist
"Iran is the biggest exporter of terror in the world. Iran´s terror
operations are now exposed for all to see," Mr Netanyahu told Knesset
Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, has indicated in his clearest
terms yet that Washington will act to prevent a nuclear Iran and will
not tolerate it if Iran attempts to block the Straits of Hormuz, a
naval trade route supplying one fifth of the world´s oil.
"We, the United States, have all options on the table," he said.
"If you´re a nation that wants to be part of the international family
of nations, then join it... Join us in an effort to try to
diplomatically reduce your efforts in terms of nuclear capability,"
"So that pressure needs to continue, and Israel has been part of
that. My hope is that Israel will be part of that international
effort to keep the pressure on. That´s the most effective way to
isolate Iran and to keep the pressure on," he added.
Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said on Thursday that a two-
day visit to Iran by top UN nuclear watchdog officials scheduled
would help determine whether Tehran was serious about tackling
international concerns. (© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited
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