Washington: Israel is preparing a military
strike against Iran over US objections, triggering Americans
to step up contingency plans to safeguard its facilities in
the region in case of a conflict.
President Barack Obama, defence Secretary Leon Panetta
and other top US officials have delivered a string of private
messages to Israeli leaders, warning about dire consequences
of a strike, Wall Street Journal reported quoting Pentagon
Obama spoke on phone on Thursday with Israeli Prime
Minister Benzamin Netanyahu and Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman
of the joint chiefs of staff is rushing to Tel Aviv to top
meet top Israeli military officials.
"Our concern is heightened," a senior US military
official said of the probability of an Israeli strike over US
Tehran crossed at least one of Israel`s "red lines"
earlier this month when it announced it had begun enriching
uranium at the Fordow underground nuclear facility near the
holy city of Qom.
The planned closing of Israel`s nuclear plant near Dimona
this month, which was reported in Israeli media, sounded
alarms in Washington, where officials feared it meant Israel
was repositioning its own nuclear assets to safeguard them
against a potential Iranian counterstrike.
The high-stakes planning and diplomacy comes as US
officials warn Tehran, including through what administration
officials described yesterday as direct messages to Iran`s
leaders, against provocative actions.
Tehran has warned that it could retaliate to tightened
sanctions by blocking oil trade through the Strait of Hormuz.
On Thursday, Iran`s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
vowed to punish the perpetrators of the assassination blamed
by Iran on the US and Israel of an Iranian scientist involved
in the nuclear programme.
The US denied the charge and condemned the attack. Israel
Covert efforts by Israel`s intelligence service to
prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons have been
credited with slowing the programme without the high risk of
military conflict that could be sparked by an airstrike. Iran
says its nuclear programme is for peaceful uses.
But Israel has declined to rule out a strike, as has the
"It is the policy of the Israeli government, and the
Obama administration, that all options remain on the table.
And it is crucial that the ayatollahs in Tehran take this
policy seriously," said Michael Oren, Israel`s ambassador to
The US military is preparing for a number of possible
responses to an Israeli strike, including assaults by
pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq against the US Embassy in
Baghdad, according to US officials.
The US believes its embassy and other diplomatic
outposts in Iraq are more vulnerable following the withdrawal
of US forces last month. Up to 15,000 US diplomats, federal
employees and contractors are expected to remain in Iraq.
In large measure to deter Iran, the US has 15,000
troops in Kuwait, and has moved a second aircraft carrier
strike group to the Persian Gulf area.
It has also been pre-positioning aircraft and other
military equipment, officials say. Arms transfers to key
allies in the Gulf, including the United Arab Emirates and
Saudi Arabia, have been fast-tracked as a further deterrent,