US, Britain urge Israel not to attack Iran (AP) Associated Press) By JOSEF FEDERMAN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/19/12 5:23 pm ET)
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-Top
JERUSALEM – The U.S. and Britain on Sunday urged Israel not to attack
Iran´s nuclear program as the White House´s national security adviser
arrived in the region, reflecting growing international jitters that
the Israelis are poised to strike.
In their warnings, both the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of
staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and British Foreign Secretary William
Hague said an Israeli attack on Iran would have grave consequences
for the entire region and urged Israel to give international
sanctions against Tehran more time to work. Dempsey said an Israeli
attack is "not prudent," and Hague said it would not be "a wise
thing." It was not known whether their messages were coordinated.
Both Israel and the West believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear
bomb — a charge Tehran denies. But differences have emerged in how to
respond to the perceived threat.
The U.S. and the European Union have both imposed harsh new sanctions
targeting Iran´s oil sector, the lifeline of the Iranian economy.
With the sanctions just beginning to bite, they have expressed
optimism that Iran can be persuaded to curb its nuclear ambitions.
On Sunday, Iran´s Oil Ministry said it has halted oil shipments to
Britain and France in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the
European Union. The semiofficial Mehr news agency said the National
Iranian Oil Company has sent letters to some European refineries with
an ultimatum to either sign long-term contracts of two to five years
or be cut off. The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 percent of
Iran´s oil exports.
Israel has welcomed the sanctions. But it has pointedly refused to
rule out military action and in recent weeks sent signals that its
patience is running thin.
Israel believes a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its very
existence, citing Iran´s support for Arab militant groups, its
sophisticated arsenal of missiles capable of reaching Israel and its
leaders´ calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Last week, Israel accused Iran of being behind a string of attempted
attacks on Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia and Thailand.
There is precedent for Israeli action. In 1981, the Israeli air force
destroyed an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor. And in 2007, Israeli
warplanes are believed to have destroyed a target that foreign
experts think was an unfinished nuclear reactor in Syria.
Experts, however, have questioned how much an Israeli operation would
accomplish. With Iran´s nuclear installations scattered and buried
deep underground, it is believed that an Iranian strike would set
back, but not destroy, Iran´s nuclear program.
There are also concerns Iran could fire missiles at Israel, get its
local proxies Hezbollah and Hamas to launch rockets into the Jewish
state, and cause global oil prices to spike by striking targets in
In an interview broadcast on CNN Sunday, Dempsey said Israel has the
capability to strike Iran and delay the Iranians "probably for a
couple of years. But some of the targets are probably beyond their
He expressed concern that an Israeli attack could spark reprisals
against U.S. targets in the Gulf or Afghanistan, where American
forces are based.
"That´s the question with which we all wrestle. And the reason that
we think that it´s not prudent at this point to decide to attack
Iran," Dempsey said.
Describing Iran as a "rational actor," Dempsey said he believed that
the international sanctions on Iran are beginning to have an
effect. "For that reason, I think, that we think the current path
we´re on is the most prudent path at this point."
The arrival of White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was
the latest in a series of high-level meetings between Israel and the
U.S. Last month, Dempsey visited Israel, and next month, Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to visit the White House.
Donilon was set to meet with Netanyahu late Sunday, and with Israeli
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday before leaving.
Asked whether he believed Israel could be deterred from striking,
Dempsey said: "I´m confident that they understand our concerns, that
a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn´t achieve
their long-term objectives. But, I mean, I also understand that
Israel has national interests that are unique to them."
Hague delivered a similar message in Britain. Speaking to the BBC, he
said Britain was focused on pressuring Iran through diplomatic means.
"I don´t think a wise thing at this moment is for Israel to launch a
military attack on Iran," he said. "I think Israel like everyone else
in the world should be giving a real chance to the approach we have
adopted on very serious economic sanctions and economic pressure and
the readiness to negotiate with Iran."
In a sign that the diplomatic pressure might be working, Iran´s
foreign minister said Sunday that a new round of talks with six world
powers on the nuclear program will be held in Istanbul, Turkey. Ali
Akbar Salehi didn´t give any timing for the talks.
The last round of talks between Iran and the five permanent members
of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany were held in Istanbul in
January 2011 but ended in failure. (© 2012 The Associated Press
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY