Monday, February 20, 2012

Israel under huge pressure to avoid Iran attack

JERUSALEM — Israel is coming under increased pressure from Washington and Europe to hold off from attacking Iran over its disputed nuclear drive and allow time for a regime of tight international sanctions to kick in.

Pressure is being exerted from all directions, officials acknowledge, with Washington's concern over a pre-emptive Israeli strike reflected in the steady stream of senior officials arriving in Jerusalem for top-level talks.

The latest visitor was US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who on Sunday held a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and held similar in-depth talks with Defence Minister Ehud Barak, whose "hawkish line" on Iran is worrying Washington, Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday.

Later this week, US intelligence chief James Clapper is also due to arrive, press reports said.

Barak, Netanyahu's de facto deputy, has been "summoned" to Washington next week, media reports said, ahead of a visit by the premier himself on March 5.

"Israel is under pressure from all sides. The Americans don't want to be surprised and faced with a fait accompli of an Israeli attack," a senior Israeli official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"They are telling us to be patient and see if the international sanctions against Tehran will eventually work," he said. Read More