Netanyahu trying to persuade cabinet to support attack on Iran
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran, a senior Israeli official has said. According to the official, there is a “small advantage” in the cabinet for the opponents of such an attack.
Netanyahu and Barak recently persuaded Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who previously objected to attacking Iran, to support such a move.
Although more than a million Israelis have had to seek shelter during a week of rockets raining down on the south, political leaders have diverted their attention to arguing over a possible war with Iran. Leading ministers were publicly dropping hints on Tuesday that Israeli could attack Iran, although a member of the forum of eight senior ministers said no such decision had been taken.
Senior ministers and diplomats said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report, due to be released on November 8, will have a decisive effect on the decisions Israel makes.
The commotion regarding Iran was sparked by journalist Nahum Barnea’s column in Yedioth Ahronoth last Friday. Barnea’s concerned tone and his editors’ decision to run the column under the main headline (“Atomic Pressure” ) repositioned the debate on Iran from closed rooms to the media’s front pages.
(Reuters) – Israel test-fired a missile from a military base on Wednesday, two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of the “direct and heavy threat” posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
The noon launch near Tel Aviv, which had not been announced in advance, coincided with a week-long surge of speculation in local media that Netanyahu was working to secure cabinet consensus for an attack on Israel’s arch-foe.
Netanyahu’s office declined comment on the reports, which were unsourced and unconfirmed, and which some commentators suggested might be disinformation designed to jolt war-wary foreign powers into stepping up sanctions against Tehran.
The Defense Ministry described the launch from Palmachim base as the test of the propulsion system of a missile on which it declined to elaborate.
“This is an impressive technological achievement and an important step in Israel’s advances in the realms of missiles and space, which has been a long time in the planning,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement.
Israel Radio’s military affairs correspondent, who is regularly briefed by top officials on Defense matters, said a “ballistic missile” had been launched. The term generally applies to long-range missiles for delivering warheads.
Israel is widely assumed to have such weapons, known as Jerichos, as well as Shavit rockets for putting satellites into orbit. It has also, with U.S. help, been upgrading its Arrow aerial shield, which uses interceptor missiles to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles above the atmosphere.
The missile fired from Palmachim flew at a high angle skyward, witnesses told local media several minutes before the Defense Ministry formally announced the launch.
US: no comment on ‘buzz’ of Israeli strike on Iran
WASHINGTON — The United States declined Wednesday to respond to “buzz” or “rumors” in Israel about reports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking cabinet support for a strike on Iran.
The White House said it was focused squarely on a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear drive, and said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had recently expressed discomfort about the impact of Iranian sanctions.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that he would not comment on “buzz, rumors, decisions that may or may not have been made, debates that may or may not have been had.”
“I’m not going to respond to that kind of speculation.”
Carney was asked to comment after a report in Haaretz newspaper on Wednesday cited a senior Israeli official as saying Netanyahu was working with Defense Minister Ehud Barak to win support from skeptical members of the cabinet who oppose attacking Iranian nuclear facilities.
House committee OKs new penalties against Iran
WASHINGTON (AP) — A House panel on Wednesday unanimously approved harsher penalties against Iran, arguing that an economically weak Tehran will struggle in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
By voice vote, Republicans and Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee pushed forward two bills that would strengthen current sanctions while expanding the list of companies and individuals subject to penalties. Lawmakers cited recent allegations of an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States and insisted that such brazen behavior demands consequences.
The legislation builds on sanctions that Congress overwhelmingly passed — and President Barack Obama signed — last year. Those penalties targeted exports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran and banned U.S. banks from doing business with foreign banks providing services to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The United Nations and the European Union have also imposed sanctions on Iran.
The latest legislation “is designed to clamp new and tougher sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, threatening the regime’s existence if it refuses to halt its nuclear weapons program,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the committee chairwoman. She called Iran’s energy sector the country’s Achilles heel.
UK military steps up plans for Iran attack amid fresh nuclear fears
Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran’s nuclear enrichment programme, the Guardian has learned.
The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.
In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.
They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.
The Guardian has spoken to a number of Whitehall and defence officials over recent weeks who said Iran was once again becoming the focus of diplomatic concern after the revolution in Libya.
They made clear that Barack Obama, has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s presidential election.
But they warned the calculations could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.
Hawks in the US are likely to seize on next week’s report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is expected to provide fresh evidence of a possible nuclear weapons programme in Iran.