Washington denies it made back-channel deal to avoid conflict with Tehran

Yedioth Ahronoth report claiming US told Iran it would stay out of Israel-Iran conflict ‘completely incorrect,’ White House says

A mural outside the former US Embassy in Tehran. (photo credit: CC-BY-SA davehighbury, Flickr)
A mural outside the former US Embassy in Tehran. (photo credit: CC-BY-SA davehighbury, Flickr)

The White House on Monday rejected a report published by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth that claimed American officials told their Iranian counterparts the US would stay out of an Israel-Iran conflict.

“It’s incorrect, completely incorrect,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told Reuters. “The report is false and we don’t talk about hypotheticals.”

The report published on Monday said senior administration officials recently sent messages to Iran through diplomats from two European states indicating that the US would not support Israel should it launch a unilateral strike, and that the US expects Tehran not to retaliate against the American military in the Persian Gulf.

Israeli officials also downplayed the report, according to Reuters

It doesn’t make sense,” one official told the news agency. “There would be no need to make such a promise to the Iranians because they realize the last thing they need is to attack U.S. targets and draw massive U.S. bombing raids.”

Monday’s report came amid widespread debate over the level of coordination between Israel and the US on halting Iran’s nuclear program, which — despite assurances by US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on Sunday that the relationship is as good as ever — appeared to be strained.

The only bone of contention between the two countries is the timetable for action against Iran, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Monday. Israel is reportedly pushing for military action now, while the US still believes there is time for diplomacy and sanctions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed for the US and the international community to set hard and fast “red lines” beyond which multilateral military action would be taken against Iran.

“The greater the resolve and the clearer the red line, the less likely we’ll have conflict,” Netanyahu said Monday.

According to The New York Times, the White House is considering defining a point of no return in a bid to calm Israel, which says Iran’s nuclear program represents an existential threat.

Highlighting the disagreement between the two countries on the use of force were reports of a scaling-down of joint US-Israel missile defense exercises in October, and public comments by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, who said last Thursday that he did not want to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran.

On Saturday, former minister Tzachi Hanegbi said the United States is not determined to halt Iran from getting a bomb and last week’s IAEA report, which indicated that Iran has expanded its capacity for uranium enrichment, granted Israel even more legitimacy to strike Iran on its own.


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