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Friday, April 23, 2010    

Israel pledged to Obama: No 2010 attack on Iran

WASHINGTON — Israel was said to have pledged not to conduct an air strike against Iran in 2010.   

Officials said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relayed this pledge during meetings with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden in March and April 2010. They said the prime minister agreed to wait until the imposition and evaluation of U.S.-led sanctions on the Teheran regime.

"They've agreed the next step is the step we — the president of the United States — have initiated in conjunction with European powers, the NATO powers," Biden said.

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Officials said the administration has placed heavy pressure on Israel against an attack on Iran for at least another year. They said the Obama administration would need a year to determine whether sanctions on Iran were slowing down its nuclear weapons program. Officials said the United Nations Security Council could approve a sanctions package against Iran by June.

"They're [Israel] not going to do that [attack Iran]," Biden said in a television interview on April 22.

Officials said the Israeli and U.S. intelligence communities have maintained their disagreement over whether Iran was capable of producing nuclear weapons. They said the Israeli community has determined that Teheran has already achieved nuclear weapons capability while Washington believes this could take another one to two years.

"Military force [against Iran] is an option of last resort," U.S. Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy said. "It's off the table in the near term."

The Obama administration also linked U.S. efforts to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program to the establishment of a Palestinian state. U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones said Israel's construction policies in Jerusalem and the West Bank were undermining the international campaign against Iran.

"One of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict," Jones told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on April 21. "Ending this conflict, achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state would therefore take such an evocative issue away from Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas."

Jones also linked Iran's nuclear weapons program to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The former general said an Israeli peace treaty with Syria would block Teheran's efforts to develop or acquire nuclear weapons.

"Peace between Israel and Syria, if it is possible, could have a transformative effect on the region," Jones said.

During his address, Jones, who cited American aid, exercises and strategic dialogue, did not discuss Israeli requests for a range of U.S. military equipment and weapons over the last year. Obama has not approved one major Israeli weapons request since he entered office in January 2009.

"Our military benefits from Israel and its innovations in technology, from shared intelligence, from exercises that help our readiness and joint training that enhances our capabilities and from lessons learned in Israel’s own battles against terrorism and asymmetric threats," Jones said.

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