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By contrast, the Bush administration in 2008 declined to provide Israel with refuelling tankers and missiles that might be used in a strike on Iran.
MILITARY OPTIONS REMAIN ON TABLE
Before taking the helm at the Pentagon, Hagel had stirred ire among pro-Israel Americans for remarks including scepticism about the feasibility and desirability of such military action.
But in Israel, the second foreign country he has visited as defence secretary after Afghanistan, Hagel hewed to Obama’s line. “All military options and every option must remain on the table in dealing with Iran,” he said.
“I support the president’s position on Iran. And it’s very simple and I have stated it here … Our position is Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon - the prevention of Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Period.”
Iranian media reported on Monday that Iran and officials from the United Nations nuclear watchdog would hold a new round of talks on May 21 in Vienna. The International Atomic Energy Agency wants inspectors to restart a long-stalled investigation in Iran’s suspected atomic bomb research.
From Israel, Hagel travels to Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The latter two Gulf Arab countries, which are also wary of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, stand to win a major U.S. arms sale.
After lengthy disagreement, Israeli and U.S. estimates of when Iran might be able to produce a first nuclear weapon now largely dovetail to a time frame of about a year.
Hagel also said that non-military pressure on Iran has yet to be exhausted. “The sanctions on Iran are as potent and deep and wide a set of international sanctions that we have ever seen on any country. And those will continue to increase,” he said.
“Whether it leads to an outcome that we desire remains to be seen … and as I said, the military option is always an option.”
After the news conference, Hagel boarded an Israeli military helicopter for an aerial tour of the Golan Heights frontier - Israeli-occupied territory on the edge of Syria’s civil war