A bipartisan task force led by Ambassadors Dennis Ross and Eric Edelman is calling on the Obama administration to support a possible Israeli military strike on Iran as soon as July if no acceptable final nuclear agreement is reached with Tehran by then.
The recommendation was included in a report released by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’ (JINSA) Iran Task Force on Monday.
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"The United States should move immediately to impose new sanctions and consider even tougher actions against Iran if no acceptable final agreement is in place 180 days after the [interim agreement’s] formal implementation on January 20," the report says.
"At that time, the United States should do nothing that would impinge upon Israel’s ability to decide what actions it must take at that time, and indeed should support Israel if it takes military action."
JINSA CEO Michael Makovsky said the task force was not calling for an Israeli strike on Iran, but for the United States to support one if Israel deemed it necessary after the 180-day window.
"It has been U.S. policy all along that we’d support Israel if it chose to attack," said Makovsky at a panel discussion hosted by JINSA on Monday. "The reason why we focus on the Israeli government is because that is the last remaining stick right now."
He said open-ended talks would undermine the only credible military threat against Iran, since Israel could be accused of thwarting diplomatic efforts if it attacked the nuclear program during drawn-out negotiations.
The task force’s report also criticized the interim nuclear deal reached by world leaders and Iran last year as "deeply flawed" and said it will "undermine the effort to prevent a nuclear Iran."
Ross, a former top Middle East adviser to President Barack Obama, voiced a more favorable view of the deal during the panel discussion on Monday.
"I’m not one of those who thinks the agreement is that bad," he said. "You do cap their program, and you do create inspections that are better than what we’ve had."
He said the agreement clearly includes an acknowledgement that Iran can continue to enrich uranium, but added that he favored a limited enrichment approach because it showed the world that the deal was credible.
Steve Rademaker, a former State Department official under the Bush administration, disagreed with Ross and said the agreement removed the "bright line" between some enrichment and no enrichment.
He said the interim deal also concedes that any long-term agreement would not be permanent, and when it expires Iran would be subject to the same regulations as any other country with a civilian nuclear program.
"Iran is going to be treated just like Japan, just like Canada," said Rademaker.