US Envoy to Israel: Military Option for Iran ‘Ready’ if Necessary

Posted May 17th, 2012 at 5:30 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. envoy to Israel said this week that Washington is willing to use military force if necessary to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and already has plans in place for a possible attack.

Ambassador Daniel Shapiro told members of Israel's Bar Association “it would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure than to use military force.”

“But,” he said, “that does not mean that option is not fully available. Not just available, but it's ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it's ready.”

According to the Associated Press, which said it obtained a tape of the remarks, Shapiro acknowledged the diplomatic clock is ticking. “We do believe there is time – some time, not an unlimited amount of time,” he said. “But at a certain point, we may have to make a judgment that the diplomacy will not work.”

The envoy's comments were first reported Thursday by the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon. Shapiro spoke on Tuesday. A U.S. embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv declined to elaborate on the remarks, which aired on Israeli radio and television.

The United States, Israel and much of the international community believes Iran's nuclear program is an attempt to obtain a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies, saying its work is for peaceful civilian energy and medical use.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Pentagon will give Israel an additional $70 million for its short-range anti-rocket shield, known as “Iron Dome.”

He spoke after meeting his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, in Washington Thursday.

The U.S. already has provided $205 million for the system and annually gives Israel another $3.1 billion in overall security assistance, the most for any foreign country.

Panetta said U.S. President Barack Obama had directed him to fill Israel's request for the extra funds for Iron Dome, designed to intercept short-range rockets and mortars.

In the event of an Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, Tehran is likely to ask proxy forces within close range of Israel – such as the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia – to attack the Jewish state with missiles and rockets.

Experts say Tehran also is likely to retaliate by launching some medium-range ballistic missiles at Israel, but that these weapons are notoriously inaccurate.

Washington has pursued a policy of pushing tough economic sanctions against Iran, while leaving the door open to a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue.

On Thursday, U.S. Senate Republicans blocked legislation for new punitive measures on Iran's oil sector, saying they needed more time to study the bill.

The move drew anger from Democrats who expected unanimous approval before the next round talks on Tehran's nuclear program begin next week in Baghdad.

Senators from both parties said the additional sanctions are likely to pass, although the timeline remained unclear.

Iran's official IRNA news agency reported Thursday that the country's parliament approved President Mahmound Ahmadinejad's $462 billion annual budget, a drop in real terms from last year.

Iran's currency has lost much of its value in recent months as international sanctions take their toll.