IAF F-16 AP File Photo
Israel Air Force F-16 taking off on a mission. Photo by AP
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Australian intelligence agencies feared that Israel may attack Iran and that such an attack could set off a nuclear war in the Middle East, the Australian newspaper The Age reported on Monday.

The report, based on cables released by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to The Age, said that Australian intelligence believed that Iran's nuclear program was intended for deterrence and that viewing Iran as a rogue state would be a mistake.

''The AIC's [Australian intelligence community's] leading concerns with respect to Iran's nuclear ambitions center on understanding the time frame of a possible weapons capability, and working with the United States to prevent Israel from independently launching uncoordinated military strikes against Iran,'' a cable sent to Washington last March from the U.S. embassy in Canberra read.

''They are immediately concerned that Iran's pursuit of nuclear capabilities would lead to a conventional war - or even nuclear exchange - in the Middle East involving the United States that would draw Australia into a conflict.''

Another leaked U.S. cable, this one from July 2008, showed that former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was "deeply worried" that Iran's intransigence on its disputed nuclear program meant that Israel might feel compelled to use "non-diplomatic" means.

In December 2008, then chief of the Australian intelligence agency ONA Peter Varghese held a meeting with U.S. State Department official Randall Fort. According to a leaked U.S. cable on the meeting, Varghese said that the ONA was telling the Australian government that it would be a mistake to consider Iran to be a rogue state.

At that meeting, Varghese expressed his view that a potential conflict between Israel and Iran ''clearly represented the greatest challenge to [Middle East] stability.''

Another cable shows that in March 2009 the U.S. embassy reported to Washington that Australia was concerned that nuclear proliferation in the Middle East could prompt southeast Asian countries to pursue nuclear capabilities that would pose a threat to Australia.