Jerusalem – The Middle East Newsline reports from U.S. administration sources that President George Bush has decided that, barring a “catastrophic development,” the United States would not attack Iran. The sources said the administration has been relaying the decision to U.S. allies in the Middle East.
“The United States has decided that Iran’s cooperation was needed for a withdrawal from Iraq,” an administration source said. “There won’t be a situation where there will be cooperation and then war with Iran.”
The sources said the administration plans to discuss its decision with Israel during their annual strategic dialogue, which took place yesterday in Washington. The Israeli delegation would be headed by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and military chief of staff. Mofaz was scheduled to meet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior administration officials.
The administration decision marked a rejection of more than two years of Israeli appeals for a U.S. military option against Iran. The sources said Bush was swayed by his intention to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq as well as an intelligence assessment that an airstrike would not destroy all or most of Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.
“The hidden message [to Israel] was that if we don’t do it [strike Iran], you definitely don’t do it,” the source said.
During the strategic dialogue, the administration intends to discuss its intention to reduce the U.S. military presence throughout the Middle East. The sources said the administration has relayed similar messages to Gulf Cooperation Council states, particularly Saudi Arabia, during the visit by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in April.
The strategic dialogue was expected to facilitate the scheduled visit by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Washington, his second in less than seven months. The sources said Olmert would not focus on Iran in his talks with Bush on June 19.
“The president plans to focus on peace talks and confidence-building measures with the Palestinians,” the source said.
Under the administration plan, the source said, the U.S. military would be prepared to begin the pullout from Iraq in late 2007. The lion’s share of American troops would return home by November 2008.
At the same time, the Defense Department was drafting a plan to maintain a long-term U.S. military presence in up to 12 bases in Iraq. The presence would contain aircraft as well as special forces designed to preserve Iraq’s territorial capability.
“The model is South Korea, which is to maintain basic defense, stay in heavily protected bases and not get involved in the insurgency war,” the source said.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007