Israel’s Netanyahu to Visit US as Concern Grows Over Possible Iran Attack

Posted February 5th, 2012 at 3:05 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Israel says its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will travel to the United States next month. The visit comes at a time of increased concern among U.S. officials about the possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said Sunday he will travel to Washington to address members of the pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, (AIPAC), at its annual conference, which begins March 4. Israeli officials told Western news agencies it is likely the prime minister will meet U.S. President Barack Obama during the trip. There was no confirmation from the White House.

The two leaders last met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. Since then, U.S. officials have urged Israel to give more time for U.S. and European Union sanctions to prevent Iran from building atomic weapons. Iran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful.

Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence because of Iranian leaders' frequent calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week Israel is a “cancerous tumor that must be cut off.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told his Cabinet Sunday Israel's only guarantee of survival in the face of such statements is to keep building its military and economic might.

In recent weeks, Israeli leaders have said Iran's nuclear program may soon reach an advanced stage that makes it immune to an attack. They have warned Israel may strike if international sanctions fail to stop Iran's progress. The Obama administration has said Iran does not appear to have made a decision to build a nuclear bomb. But, U.S. officials have refused to rule out military action in response to such a step.

Iran's Fars news agency quotes the deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as saying Iranian forces will retaliate against any country whose territory is used to attack Iran. Fars reported General Hossein Salami's warning on Sunday. In Iran's latest show of force, the elite Revolutionary Guards began a new round of military exercises in the country's south on Saturday.

In another development, Israel replaced its air force chief on Sunday, assigning the post to Major-General Amir Eshel. Israel's air force could be a major component of any Israeli strike on Iran.