"It would not be right to talk about these things," Barak said.
Other officials said the administration's decision in July 2008 was the
latest in a series of rejections of Israeli requests for advanced U.S.
systems required for long-range strikes. They said Washington has denied
Israeli requests for advanced reconnaissance systems, airborne radars,
deep-penetration ordnance and equipment to detect underground activity.
"The administration policy is not to sell us anything that would augment
our offensive capability," an official said. "It has been this way for quite
a few years, and the increased threats against Israel has not changed this."
A U.S. source close to the Bush administration confirmed its rejection
of the latest Israeli request. The source said Israel sought U.S. systems
that could detect and destroy Iranian nuclear bunkers and tunnels.
"The Americans assert that their systems could detect activity deep
underground," the source said. "But this is not correct, and they don't want
Israel to find this out."
The U.S. source said the administration also rejected an Israeli request
for bunker-busting bombs that could destroy Iran's underground nuclear
weapons facilities. The Israeli request was said to have included an
assurance that the bombs would be used only against Iran.
"The Israelis got some earlier bunker-buster models, but not the latest
weapons systems," the source said.
Instead, the administration has offered to examine Israel's requests for
defensive systems. They included an X-band radar for long-range
early-warning of enemy missile launches.
Officials said the U.S. administration, maintaining that Teheran was at
least two years away from nuclear weapons capability, relayed a warning to
Israel against a unilateral attack on Iran. The American message, they said,
asserted that such an attack would destabilize the region and harm U.S.
The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been divided over
whether to attack Iran's nuclear weapons program. The Foreign Ministry has
warned that such an attack could fail and instead result in massive
international condemnation of Israel and blanket approval for Teheran's
The Defense Ministry and military have assessed that the most favorable
period for an Israeli strike was late 2008 or early 2009 before Bush leaves
office. The Israeli intelligence community has determined that Bush, and
particularly Vice President Richard Cheney, would support such an Israeli
attack despite the U.S. embrace of a diplomatic option toward Teheran.
"Bush can't act against the advice of his secretary of defense and
secretary of state," an official said. "But once Israel attacks, he will
stand by Israel's side as he did during the Lebanon war [in 2006]."