‘Recon for attack a warning to Iran’
By HERB KEINON
Israeli official: US okay of reconnaissance flights may signal strike.
Reports that the Pentagon has okayed reconnaissance missions over Iran were seen in Jerusalem on Tuesday as the first public signs of practical preparations for a possible US military operation against Iran.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in the Middle East, ordered an expansion of clandestine military activity in the region. According to the report, “officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.”
The article continued that the seven-page directive “appears to authorize specific operations in Iran, most likely to gather intelligence about the country’s nuclear program or identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive.”
Although it is obvious that the Pentagon has contingency plans for all possible scenarios, one Israeli official said this was “the first time that the public is getting word of practical preparations of military activity.”
The official said that if this was a deliberate leak, then it was clearly an attempt to send a tough message to the Iranians that, indeed, no options – as the US has been saying for months – have been taken off the table.
And even if this were not a deliberate leak, the official added, the impression the information would have on Teheran would still be the same.
Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset that the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil last week whereby Iran would transfer 1,200 kilos of low-enriched uranium abroad was “a transparent Iranian ruse meant to divert the international public’s attention from sanctions.”
Addressing the assembled MKs, Netanyahu said the deal, which drew mixed responses from the permanent UN Security Council members and in particular the US, would still leave enough uranium in Iran’s possession to produce a nuclear weapon.
“This proposal also guarantees Iran the right to take back at any point the kilograms [of uranium] transferred to Turkey,” the prime minister said, praising Washington for deciding to press forward in its pursuit of a fourth round of Security Council sanctions.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu said that while important symbolically, “I think we all know these sanctions will not stop Iran.”
The prime minister said that “more effective sanctions are being prepared now by the US Congress. They will affect, among other things, the energy sector, imports, exports and other areas. The US will be able to pass these sanctions outside the Security Council or in conjunction with it.”
Teheran, Netanyahu said, must “understand that the international community is determined to prevent it from acquiring nuclear arms.”