Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted Thursday that there may be no need for an Israeli strike on Iran, due to the unprecedented concentration of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf. Barak spoke shortly after meeting with Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is visiting Israel.

"Israel retains its right to make sovereign decisions and the United States respects that," Barak said at an Atzmaut party gathering. "However, one should not ignore the impressive preparations by the Americans to counter Iran on all fronts."

Barak made the comments after he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were briefed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon regarding U.S. preparations for a possible confrontation with Iran.

A month ago, Haaretz revealed that Donilon presented Netanyahu with the details concerning the strengthening of U.S. forces in the gulf.

"As opposed to the Bush administration, the Obama administration is indeed carrying out steps in the gulf, transferring forces and preparing bases," a top Israeli official said. "There is an unprecedented U.S. deployment opposite Iran."

Barak said that while there are differences between the Israeli and U.S. points of view on Iran, "the U.S. is our most important ally. The intelligence cooperation and security backing Israel receives at present is exceptional in its scope."

Barak's more moderate remarks follow Netanyahu's more temperate statements earlier this week. Barak said on Monday that if the world outlined "clear red lines" for Iran, the chances of war would be reduced. Netanyahu refrained in recent days from mentioning Israel's right to self=defense or making any other remark which might imply that Israel was planning to bomb Iran.