Strike on Iran still possible, U.S. tells Israel
WASHINGTON -- Bush administration officials reassured Israel's defense minister this week that the United States has not abandoned all possibility of a military attack on Iran, despite widespread Israeli concern that Washington has begun softening its position toward Tehran.
In meetings Monday and Tuesday, administration officials told Defense Minister Ehud Barak that the option of attacking Iran over its nuclear program remains on the table, though U.S. officials are primarily seeking a diplomatic solution.
At the same time, U.S. officials acknowledged that there is a rare divergence in the U.S. and Israeli approaches, with Israelis emphasizing the possibility of a military response out of concern that Tehran may soon have the know-how for building a nuclear bomb.
"Is there a difference of emphasis? It certainly looks as though there is," said a senior American Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing the sensitive talks.
U.S. and Israeli officials believe Iran is enriching uranium with the aim of building nuclear weapons.
Tehran says that it is engaged in a peaceful enrichment program for civilian energy purposes.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in an interview that U.S. officials have often made it clear to Israeli officials that Washington prefers to try to mitigate the threat from Tehran by applying economic pressure.
"The military option, although always available, is not our preferred route," Morrell said.
"We have made that point clear to them and the world in our public statements and private meetings."
Barak left Israel for Washington amid reports in the Israeli press that he would try to talk the Bush administration out of what many Israelis perceive as a more conciliatory policy toward Iran.