Israeli-American Strategic Coordination regarding an Israeli Operation against Iran

In his speech at the Saban Forum on December 2, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stressed the need for Israel to work together with the United States to foil the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear project. Panetta’s words were expressed in the context of growing concerns in the American administration that Israel is preparing to act independently against Iran in order to foil its nuclear ambitions. When asked recently if Israel would give the US advance notice before taking military action against Iran, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answered, “I don’t know.”

The United States is well aware that Iran continues to labor towards attaining military nuclear capability, and the most recent International Atomic Energy Agency report was unequivocal in this assessment. Clearly, the steps taken in recent years by Western nations in general and the US in particular to deter Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear program have been unsuccessful.

Nor will continued activity against Iran at the current level likely stop Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear capability. Like previous administrations, the Obama administration issues resolute statements about the unacceptability of a nuclear Iran and that all options, including the military option, are still on the table. In practice, however, it seems increasingly clear that the American administration has no real intention of using an overt military option to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program. The practical meaning is that the US prefers to accept a nuclear Iran rather than risk military action against it.

This reality may present Israel with a dilemma in the coming months, whether to accept the possibility of Iran attaining nuclear capability or try to foil this possibility by means of its own independent military action. According to the Minister of Defense Ehud Barak’s testimony, about one year is left for foiling Iran’s nuclear program....

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