Newsweek: No Assurance Obama Will Take Action if Iran Sanctions Fail

February 13, 2012

In a lengthy story from Newsweek about the Obama administration’s Iran policy, the magazine reports that despite pleas from Israeli officials, the Obama administration will make no assurance of military action should sanctions fail to dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon:

The key question now is how much time is left to achieve a negotiated solution. Israeli officials say that the United States thinks it can afford to wait until Iran is on the very verge of weaponizing, because U.S. forces have the capacity to carry out multiple bombing sorties and cripple the Iranian program at that point. Israel, however, would not be able to carry out such a sustained attack and would need to hit much sooner to be effective—before Iran could shelter much of its program deep underground. One former Israeli official tells Newsweek he heard this explanation directly from Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "If Israel will miss its last opportunity [to attack], then we will have to lean only on the United States, and if the United States decides not to attack, then we will face an Iran with a bomb," says the former Israeli official. This source says that Israel has asked Obama for assurances that if sanctions fail, he will use force against Iran. Obama’s refusal to provide that assurance has helped shape Israel’s posture: a refusal to promise restraint, or even to give the United States advance notice.

The piece also details how Israel is weighing the option to take matters into its own hands. Last month, Israel's Mossad chief was in Washington to take the pulse of the administration.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency was recently in Washington for top-level meetings on Iran. According to an American official who was involved, Tamir Pardo wanted to take the pulse of the Obama administration and determine what the consequences would be if Israel bombed Iranian nuclear sites over American objections. Pardo raised many questions, according to this source: "What is our posture on Iran? Are we ready to bomb? Would we [do so later]? What does it mean if [Israel] does it anyway?" As it is, Israel has stopped sharing a significant amount of information with Washington regarding its own military preparations.