The weeklong US-Israel marathon in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv ending Thursday, July 30 was the platform for the Obama administration’s first unveiling of a new US diplomatic-military program for Iran and its nuclear threat, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose. The three-staged program was presented by US defense secretary Robert Gates and national security adviser James Jones to prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defense minister Ehud Barak, chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy, Mossad chief Meir Dagan and military intelligence head Amos Yadlin.
The new approach consists of three steps for thwarting Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb:
1. Diplomatic engagement as far as it will go. The American officials assured Israel they were aware of the diminishing chances of this track succeeding in view of the Islamic regime’s domestic troubles, but the US administration is still determined to give it a chance up until early September.
2. If diplomacy fails, Washington will embark on the phased introduction of increasingly harsh sanctions against Iran, such as an embargo on exporting refined oil products including gasoline to Iran and a blockade on its sea ports.
3. If Iran continues to forge ahead with its nuclear and missile development, the US will resort to its military options. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the American visitors shared with Israeli leaders their specific plans of actions with details of the resources they planned to wield.
Gates and Jones wound up their presentation by stating unambiguously: Iran is a big power issue and it behooves the United States as the leading world power to handle it. So leave it to us and act like an American ally and friendly government. The role they assigned Israel was to leave its military option on the table in order to keep Tehran under pressure.
Our Jerusalem sources report that the Netanyahu government will study the new Obama administration’s program and decide how to approach it. On the one hand, Israel’s political and defense leaders were provided with the first detailed and coherent Washington has devised for dealing with the prospective Iranian nuclear menace.
It meant that Israel is not alone in the field against the Islamic Republic and has been relieved by the American plan of action of the need to resort to unilateral military action.
But on the other, the intelligence estimates the US and Israel traded in their talks this week differ on Iran’s timeline for assembling nuclear warheads and devices. By asking Israel to leave the Iranian nuclear threat to the United States, Gates and Jones were also telling Israel to accept US intelligence’s longer estimate of this timeline. This might in the long run turn out to be inimical to Israel’s security interests.