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Panetta Warns Netanyahu

From The Times:

America’s spy chief was sent on a secret mission to Israel to warn its leaders not to launch a surprise attack on Iran without notifying the US Administration.

As Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, prepares to visit Washington, it emerged yesterday that Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, went to Israel two weeks ago. He sought assurances from Mr Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister, that their hawkish new Government would not attack Iran without alerting Washington.

This is silly. We should consider ourselves alerted now. Israel has to take action soon.

Concerns have been rising that Mr Netanyahu could launch a strike on Tehran’s atomic programme, in the same way that Israel hit Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in 1981. Israel has been preparing for such an eventuality. It has carried out long-distance manoeuvres and is due to hold its largest civil defence drills this summer. The country’s leaders reportedly told Mr Panetta that they did not “intend to surprise the US on Iran”.

Mr Netanyahu will leave for Washington this weekend. He will meet Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, and Mr Obama, whom he will try to convince of the need for tougher action against Iran. Mr Obama favours trying to engage Tehran, but his efforts have been received coolly by President Ahmadinejad.

(...)

Mr Netanyahu raised the issue of Iran during a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Nazareth yesterday. “I asked him as a moral figure to make his voice heard loud and continuously against the declarations coming from Iran of their intention to destroy Israel,” he said. ...

Hugh Fitzgerald discusses the Pope's disappointing speech in Jerusalem here.

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