U.S. Official: Israeli Leaks Are Damaging Efforts to Halt Iran's Nuclear Program

Former chief of Israeli intelligence Amos Yadlin writes in the Washington Post that Obama must visit Jerusalem and convince the Knesset and the Israeli public that the U.S. is committed to preventing the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear weapon.

The recent spate of Israeli leaks about a possible strike on Iran are undermining efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program, a senior American official charged last week.

The U.S. administration believes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn't actually decided to attack Iran, and that the leaks are meant solely to pressure Washington. Nevertheless, one official said, they are damaging.

"They [the Israelis] are deadly serious, as is the president, about the need to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon," a senior U.S. official told The Washington Post. "But there has been far too much talking - background leaks and fabrications - that hurt the cause."

Yesterday, The Washington Post published an op-ed by former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, in which he urged U.S. President Barack Obama to come to Jerusalem and reassure the Israeli public directly about his commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nukes, including by military action if necessary.

Yadlin, who currently heads the Institute for National Security Studies, maintains contact with Netanyahu and his advisors, as well as senior defense officials, and his op-ed essentially reiterates the message that Maj. Gen. (res. ) Uzi Dayan gave The New York Times last week. Dayan, who spoke to the paper after meeting with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said that a public declaration by Obama of his determination to stop Iran's nuclear program could prevent an Israeli attack.

Yadlin, in a column titled, "For peace with Iran, prepare for war," wrote that Israel will make its own decision on whether to attack.

Nevertheless, he warned, "what Israeli leaders may not fully grasp is that while they can attack alone, Israel will need the United States both the day after and the decade after a strike to ensure that Iran does not reconstitute its program. Disregarding U.S. requests to delay would not encourage such support."

The only way to prevent an Israeli attack, Yadlin continued, is for Obama to "convince Israel, Iran, Russia and even Saudi Arabia that the U.S. military option is credible and effective." And the best way to do this is for Obama to come to Israel and tell both its leaders and the public that "preventing a nuclear Iran is a U.S. interest, and if we have to resort to military action, we will. This message, delivered by the president of the United States to the Israeli Knesset, would be far more effective than U.S. officials' attempts to convey the same sentiment behind closed doors."

With much of the Western world convinced that Israel is seriously considering attacking Iran in the coming weeks, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton plans to telephone chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili soon to discuss resuming diplomatic talks on Iran's nuclear program. Ashton is conducting the talks, which reached an impasse after the third round, on behalf of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.