US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said this week his nation’s military is ready to execute “the military option” on Iran’s nuclear program if need be.
Makor Rishon reported that Shapiro, speaking at a meeting of the Israel Bar Association for Tel Aviv and the Central Region, said that not is an American military option available, but that made all necessary preparations to carry it out were complete.
“We do not know if sanctions and diplomacy will work,” Shapiro said of Western efforts to force Tehran to halt its controversial uranium enrichment program. “So, all options are on the table, including the military option.”
Shapiro said US President Barak Obama made it clear in previous meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu – and public pronouncements – that the US will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“I think this is a statement that America can take to the bank, that Israel can take to the bank, and that Iran should take to the bank,” Shapiro said.
“We believe that there is a window – not an unlimited time – in which we can still use diplomacy to achieve our goal,” he said.
Shapiro stressed “At some point we will have to decide if diplomacy has failed. What we want to do is give it any chance, because this is another thing that Israel and the US agree on – that it’s better to solve this diplomatically and through sanctions, than through military force.”
“But that does not mean that the military option is not available. In fact, this is not only an available option, but as I said, it is ready. All the necessary preparations have been made to read it,” he repeated.
Shapiro added that Obama considered an Iranian nuclear weapon counter to America’s national interests, and was unafraid to use military force to protect those interests.
“This is a part of the fight against international terrorism,” Shapiro said, adding, “Certainly it was the right decision to eliminate Bin Laden. This is a good indication of president’s ability to make hard choices when he believes the interests of the US are on the line.”
Shapiro’s remarks come ahead of talks between the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – and Iran in Baghdad next week.
A previous round of talks held earlier this year resulted in no progress other than an agreement for more talks.
Ahead of those talks International Atomic Energy Agency officials have pressured Iran for access to sites where they suspect Iran has conducted nuclear research of a military nature.
In particular, IAEA officials want Iran to address concerns expressed in an extensive IAEA report in November that at least until 2003, and possibly since, that Tehran has engaged in nuclear activities of a decidedly military nature.
Two previous trips to Tehran in January and February by the IAEA resulted in Iran denying international inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites.
Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is obligated to allow the UN watchdog access to its site for inspections to ensure it is complying with the treaty – but has consistently refused to honor the treaty.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said recently that access to Parchin was a “priority” and said in March that “activities” spotted by satellite there “makes us believe that going there sooner is better than later.”
In March, Amano charged Iran with a systemic attempt to cover up nuclear activity of a military nature saying, “Iran is not telling us everything.”
Western nations have accused Iran of removing evidence from Parchin and other sites. Iran says any allegations of “sanitization” of the site were “a childish (and) ridiculous story made out of nothing.”
Observers note that Shapiro’s assertion that Jerusalem and Washington are in lock-step on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program is out of harmony with statements by senior Israeli officials.
While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has publicly said Western sanctions should be given more time, he has told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee he does not believe they are working. He also said that sanctions were not working openly during a trip to Cyprus earlier this year.
Israeli officials – including Defense Minister Ehud Barak – have charged that further talks are a waste of time saying Iran is using them stall for time in its bid for nuclear weapons.
Analysts believe the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the coming months will dramatically increase should the Baghdad talks fail.