Amid Israeli concerted efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear work, a US defense official says Tel Aviv is not going to launch an attack on Tehran in the near term.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl said in an interview with al-Hayat published on Friday that Israel was ‘concerned’ about Iran’s nuclear program but was unlikely to unilaterally strike Tehran before the end of the year if negotiations don’t start.
“..They are very concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, they see it as a significant and some would argue as an existential threat. They show reservations on whether diplomacy can solve the impasse. But they are not threatening to launch military attacks in the near term as far as I can tell.”
The US official warned that a military action on Iran at the current junction would backfire and instead disturb the balance of the region.
“Our policy is fairly clear, Secretary (Robert Gates) and Chairman (Admiral Mike Mullen) have stated many times that military action at this stage would be destabilizing in its effects,” Kahl said, urging Israel to factor in US ‘vital interest’ in the region when going through calculations to advance their own interests.
On the US possible plan to build up a defense umbrella against Iran, the official said that Washington was working ‘closely’ with its allies in the region to build up their defense capabilities so they can protect themselves against a nuclear Iran should Tehran refuse to come back to nuclear talks.
Iran has two choices, Kahl said, either to come back to the negotiating table to escape further sanctions or face ‘increasing international isolation’ over its nuclear work.
“They can choose to come to the table and have a talk about their nuclear program….if they do that, then the door is open to improving the relations with us, sanctions being reduced or eliminated, investments flowing…but we are also as clear; if Iran decides not to go in that direction, then it is going to face increasing international isolation.”
The US and Israel along with some other Western countries accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the guise of uranium enrichment activities.
Under the allegation that Iran is a ‘threat’ to its existence, Israel, the sole nuclear power in the Middle East, has on several occasions threatened to put an end to Tehran’s nuclear program by resorting to military action.
Tehran defends its nuclear program as totally peaceful and within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory.
Iran says it favors talks over its nuclear work but calls for logical negotiations, which would not undermine its rights to peaceful applications of nuclear technology.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council- -US, UK, France, Russia and China- – plus Germany, which discuss Iran’s nuclear work, are expected to convene in early September to discuss next steps to be taken regarding Iran’s nuclear work.