Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Pentagon briefing that he does not believe Israel has made a final decision on whether to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
“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 Tuesday at a joint briefing with Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Obviously they are an independent, they are a sovereign country. They’ll ultimately make decisions based on what they think is in their national security interest.
Panetta visited Israel two weeks ago, while Dempsey met with senior officials in Israel in late January.
The United States maintains that sanctions and diplomacy are the best ways to handle Iran’s nuclear program and that an attack on its nuclear facilities should only be launched as a last resort.
At the Pentagon briefing, Dempsey added that he believed Israel can delay but not totally destroy Iran’s nuclear program.
With the addition this week of former Shin Bet security service head Avi Dichter to the Cabinet and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet, it is believed that there is a majority of Israeli government officials in favor of a pre-emptive strike against Iran.
Netanyahu and President Obama are expected to meet in late September or early October, at which time Obama could ask Israel not to go it alone against Iran.
Some in Israel believe that Israel would like Obama to back a strike by launching a solo strike before the November presidential elections, the Times of Israel reported.
Iranian leaders consider talk of an Israeli attack as “hollow and baseless,” The Jerusalem Post reported. Citing citing Iran’s ISNA news agency, the Post reported that Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi referred to Israeli threats “as a sign of weakness” by “brainless leaders.”