Tehran is not interested in raising the stakes in its standoff with Israel and would not strike US targets if Israel were to attack its nuclear program, Channel 10 news reported Wednesday, quoting unnamed senior Israeli defense officials.
Contrary to previous assessments that Iran would turn an Israeli attack into an all-out regional war — involving the US and its Middle Eastern allies — current wisdom holds that it would avoid drawing the US into battle and settle for retaliating solely against Israel, the report quoted the officials as saying.
Channel 10’s foreign affairs correspondent Nadav Eyal said an official told him that as opposed to prior estimates, which held that Iran would retaliate for an Israeli attack by closing off the Strait of Hormuz and launching missile attacks on regional US installations, recent intelligence reports indicate that Iran’s leaders fear American involvement.
Current assessments reportedly hold that Iran would still use all the means at its disposal, including ordering attacks by its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, to take its revenge on the Jewish state.
In his latest pronouncement, Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei said Israel will disappear from “the scene of geography.” Addressing war veterans in Tehran on Wednesday, he said Iran considers it its “religious duty to save this Islamic country (Palestine) from the clutches of the Zionist occupiers.”
The reported assessment came a day after top US officials spoke out publicly and warily about possible Israeli plans to strike Iranian nuclear sites.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said on Tuesday that Israel’s air force did not have the capability to deliver a knockout blow to Iran’s nuclear program. “I think that it’s a fair characterization to say that they could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” Dempsey said.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he did not believe Israel had yet made a decision on whether or not to embark on a military campaign.
“I don’t believe they made a decision as to whether or not they will go in and attack Iran at this time,” Panetta said. “Obviously, they’re a sovereign country. They’ll ultimately make decisions based on what they think is in their national security interest. But I don’t believe they made that decision at this time.”
Panetta added that he thought there was still time for sanctions against Tehran, designed to push the Iranians into abandoning their nuclear program, to take hold.
Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer said Wednesday that Israel should not misinterpret Panetta’s talk of Israel being a sovereign country that would make its own decisions as constituting any kind of US “green light” for Israeli action. That was not what Panetta was saying at all, said Kurtzer.