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April 18, 2021

Israel asks US to keep military strike option open on Iran

Republican senator says Washington should consider ‘neutering’ Iran’s navy and air force if Tehran does not halt its nuclear programme.

Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu has told US Vice President Joe Biden that only a credible military threat can deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon, Israeli political sources said, according to Al Jazeera. The comments, made on Sunday, signal growing Israeli impatience with diplomacy, the sources said.

Netanyahu, beginning a five-day US visit, argued that economic sanctions have failed to persuade Iran to stop its nuclear programme. However, Biden said after the talks that the sanctions “have a bite” and were having a “measurable impact,” though he expressed frustration that Tehran had brushed aside overtures by President Barack Obama’s administration. “The only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action against it if it doesn’t cease its race for a nuclear weapon,” one of the sources quoted Netanyahu as telling Biden.

In remarks to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in New Orleans, Biden said, “We continue to seek a peaceful resolution and to hope Iranian leaders will reconsider their current destructive and debilitating course,” he said. “But let me be very clear about this: We are also absolutely committed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” The West believes that Iran aims to use its uranium enrichment programme to build atomic weapons, and both Israel and the United States have said all options are on the table in dealing with its nuclear ambitions. But Netanyahu, who has in the past called for “crippling sanctions” against Iran, had made clear that Israel wanted to see if tough economic sanctions could eliminate what it described as a threat against its existence.

The meeting came as a day before, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said the United States should consider neutering Iran’s navy and air force if Tehran does not halt its nuclear programme, according to CNN. Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, the South Carolina senator told reporters that there will come a point where Iran’s nuclear programme will reach the state that a conventional limited air strike “won’t take them out.”

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