Senior U.S. Official: We Don't Expect Israel to Strike Iran

A senior American official expressed doubts that Israel will attack Iran, during a meeting with Israeli reporters yesterday.

"I do not think that Israel will attack Iran," the official said. "In all our discussions, the Israelis have emphasized that Iran is an international problem and Israel does not wish it to become an Israeli problem," he added.

The senior U.S. official also cast doubts on Israel's ability to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities.

"It would be significantly more complicated than the [1981] attack against the nuclear reactor in Iraq. That was a single reactor, and in Iran there are approximately 200 nuclear sites. True, some are more important than others, but it is difficult to be certain that all will be destroyed in one strike, and this is understood in Israel. The worst thing would be for you to try and not succeed," he said.

"Israel understands this, and it is committed to the diplomatic process led by the international community versus Iran," the senior official added.

The Iranian question will be at the center of talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush next Monday at the White House.

According to the U.S. official, Bush and Olmert will discuss ways of enforcing sanctions against Iran, through the United Nations Security Council.

Olmert and Bush will also discuss the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the confrontation in Lebanon. According to the senior U.S. official, the embargo on the transfer of arms to Hezbollah is still not being fully implemented, "and it is necessary to do more."

He added that the U.S. understands why Israel feels the need to continue intelligence-gathering overflights in Lebanon, but said that Washington is also concerned that these may serve Hezbollah with an excuse for violating the cease-fire.

The two leaders will not discuss the renewal of Syrian-Israeli talks.

"If Syria wants to convince us that she is interested in peace, she knows what she must do," the senior U.S. official said. "We have had so many expectations from Syria that did not manifest themselves that we are tired of the Syrians. The Israeli government does not appear interested in talking with Syria," he added.