Israel may attack Iran in bid to halt nuclear plan
Israel could launch an air strike against Iran within nine months in an attempt to slow Tehran's progress towards building a nuclear weapon, according to a former senior White House aide.
Dennis Ross, a veteran diplomat and expert on the Middle East, said Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, would not necessarily feel restrained by objections from US President Barack Obama, despite his country's close ties with Washington.
His remarks came as General Aviv Kochavi, Israel's chief of military intelligence, said Israel was convinced Iran had enough radioactive material to produce four nuclear bombs. "Iran is very actively pursuing its efforts to develop its nuclear capacities, and we have evidence that they are seeking nuclear weapons," he said.
With anxiety about an Israeli attack spreading, Nick Clegg, Britain's deputy prime minister, said: "I worry there will be a military conflict and certain countries might seek to take matters into their own hands."
Mr Ross, who left the US national security council in November but is still consulted by the White House said: "The Israelis view this [Iranian threat] in existential terms. If the Israelis feel this is an existential threat it doesn't matter what anybody says to them."
Speculation has mounted inside Israel that Mr Netanyahu could give the order for a strike against Iranian facilities as early as the summer, and so risk retaliation by Iran or terrorist groups in its pay against Israeli, US and other western targets.
Mr Ross said that while the US was keen to allow time for tougher sanctions on Iran to force the regime into a compromise, Israel was operating on a shorter time frame. "They talk about nine to 12 months," he said.
Mr Netanyahu's hand could be stayed if confidence-building measures are adopted by Iran. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have just visited to discuss "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear programme. (© Daily Telegraph, London)