Israeli officials say they won’t warn the U.S. if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations with U.S. officials, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Israeli officials said that if they eventually decide a strike is necessary, they would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the U.S. would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel’s potential attack, said one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the discussions. The U.S. has been working with the Israelis for months to convince them that an attack would be only a temporary setback to Iran’s nuclear program.
Israeli defense officials confirmed that there are no plans to alert the U.S. ahead of time about any operation against Iran, though they stressed no decisions have been made on whether to attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a confidential security matter.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered the message to a series of high-level U.S. visitors to the country, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House national security adviser, the director of national intelligence and top U.S. lawmakers, all trying to close the trust gap between Israel and the U.S. over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Netanyahu delivered the same message to all the Americans who have traveled to Israel for talks, the U.S. official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic negotiations.
The Pentagon and the Office of Director of National Intelligence declined comment. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday he would not answer “speculative” questions about Israeli intentions.
“We have very close relationships with our Israeli counterparts. We have deep engagement at every level,” Carney said.
He repeated the Obama administration’s commitment to resolving questions about Iran’s disputed nuclear program through diplomacy and economic pressure.
Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised alarms that its uranium enrichment program might be a precursor to building nuclear weapons.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, testifying before Congress Tuesday, reiterated the administration’s position that Iran has not decided whether to pursue a nuclear weapon.
“But…people sometimes say and do things that are at variance with what one might expect. It still is quite bewildering to me why Saddam Hussein wanted everybody to believe that he had chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons of mass destruction, when apparently he did not.”