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Don’t overplay your hand on Iran, US officials reportedly warn Israel

Jerusalem’s talk of deadlines and military action is deemed counterproductive, TV report claims, as Panetta vows US will thwart Tehran and White House says it shares PM’s sense that Iran has yet to make the right choice

Iran has “yet to make the choice it needs to make, which is to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said in a press briefing aboard Air Force One Wednesday.

“We completely agree with the [Israeli] prime minister’s assessment that Iran has failed to make that choice and that is absolutely a disappointment,” added Carney, presenting a united front between the two countries as visiting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta completed a day of meetings with Israeli leaders.

But a Channel 2 news report said irritated American officials are telling Israel that it is overplaying its hand with its constant warnings about time running out on stopping Iran’s nuclear program and its threats to launch military action against Iran

The message being conveyed by Obama Administration officials behind the scenes, the TV report said, is that the US knows what it is doing on Iran, and that while an Israeli strike could damage the Iranian program, an American strike, if deemed necessary, would finish it. Israel ought to stop talking about deadlines, and stop risk being perceived as meddling with domestic American politics ahead of November’s presidential elections.

The report also quoted an unnamed Israeli insider, said to be opposed to an Israeli strike, as saying that if Israel attacked Iran alone, “it would remain alone.”

The Channel 2 report came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the outset of his meeting with Panetta, had blamed the West for failing to sufficiently impress upon the Iranians that they would not be allowed to attain a nuclear weapon.

“Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. “This must change, and it must change quickly, because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.”

Over and over during the day — in public remarks alongside Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres — Panetta reiterated with slightly varying formulations that the US would do everything in its power to ensure Iran dids not attain nuclear weapons.

“We will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon, period,” he told Netanyahu. “We will exert all efforts to ensure this does not happen,” he said.

In TV interviews on Tuesday, Netanyahu said he had not yet decided whether to order military intervention to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive. When the time did come to decide, he added, however, objections from military and security chiefs would not prevent him and his government colleagues from ordering a military strike should they deem it necessary. He also said Israel would not subcontract its existential security concerns to its friends — “not even the best of them,” like the US.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu hosted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who declared that stopping Iran must be America’s “highest national security priority.”

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