Time is running out for the international community to halt Iran's nuclear programme by peaceful means, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told US defence secretary Leon Panetta in Jerusalem on Wednesday.While Obama focuses on Syria, secretly authorizing the CIA to arm future terrorists (i.e., the Syrian rebels), the clock is ticking down to when Israel will have no choice but to unilaterally attack Iran. From the New York Times:
Sanctions, diplomacy and declarations of a willingness to take military action as a last resort had not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their programme, he said. "However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them. Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear programme."
Netanyahu said earlier that although sanctions were hurting the Iranian economy, such measures had "yet to move its nuclear programme even a millimetre backwards".
On Wednesday, Mr. Panetta used some of his sharpest language on Iran, as if to assure the Israelis that the Obama administration could be equally tough.
“This is not about containment,” Mr. Panetta told reporters at the start of his meeting with Mr. Peres. “This is about making very clear that they are never going to be able to get an atomic weapon.”
In Israel, there remains feverish speculation that Mr. Netanyahu will act in September or early October. Besides the prime minister’s fear that Israel’s window of opportunity will close soon, analysts cite several reasons for the potential timing: Israel does not like to fight wars in winter. Mr. Netanyahu feels that he will have less leverage if President Obama is re-elected, and that if Mr. Romney were to win, the new president would be unlikely to want to take on a big military action early in his term.
“If I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks,” said Efraim Halevy, a former chief of Israel’s intelligence agency and national security adviser.
Others made light of the constant visits from the United States. “The visitors are actually baby sitters to make sure the unpredictable kids do not misbehave,” said Efraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Israelis have to know that they cannot depend on the Obama Administration for support or protection. They also realize that Romney is more likely to support and protect Israel. I suspect that they will hold off until they have a better feeling as to who will win the election. But if it looks like Obama will win (or does win), Israel will likely not have any option but to make a unilateral strike against Iran.