Leading NATO officials believe that Israel, ultimately, will be forced to cope alone with the Iranian nuclear program. This was reported recently by Israel Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert upon his return from meetings in Europe. In the course of his visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels two weeks ago, Lieberman met with NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alesandro Minuto Rizo and with the EU NATO representative Franco Frattini. Lieberman reported that the NATO leaders told him that Israel ultimately could not count on the international community to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“We’re stuck in Afghanistan, and European and American troops are wallowing in the Iraqi quagmire, which is something that is going to prevent the leaders of countries in Europe and America from deciding on the use of force to destroy Iran nuclear facilities,” said the NATO leaders to Lieberman. “Therefore, at the end of the day, Israel is going to have to remove the nuclear threat posed by Iran with the means at its disposal, and it won’t be able to count on international cooperation.”

Lieberman then met with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos and the former Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Asnar.

Lieberman now believes that it is the Americans and European countries’ view that there is no longer a military option with respect to Iran. He believes that if Israel were to act alone, it would win the Europeans’ and the Americans’ blessings.

Israeli political officials said yesterday that in light of the information that was revealed by the Iranian General Ali Askari, who defected to the West, the U.S. administration has modified its analysis of the situation, which now conforms to the Israeli intelligence assessment. As The Bulletin reported on Monday, Askari revealed that Iran has been making advances toward the attainment of a nuclear bomb by means of laser technology – a developmental route that was kept hidden from the inspectors. Lieberman currently heads an Israeli task force that oversees the coordination among the security establishment that are focused on the Iranian nuclear threat. The task force forum, which was established in the wake of an agreement that was reached between Olmert and Lieberman in April, is attended by representatives of various branches within the IDF, the IDF Intelligence Branch, the Mossad, the Israel Atomic Energy Committee, the Israel National Security Council and the Israel Foreign Ministry.

This task force is supposed to submit its recommendations to the security cabinet within two months. One of the recommendations that has already been formed is to expand the scope of Israeli information broadcasts to Iran. The Strategic Affairs Ministry has demanded that the Finance Ministry allocate funds to this end in the 2008 state budget. Lieberman has met a number of times already with the new defense minister, Ehud Barak, and has discussed the Iranian issue with him.

This piece ran in the Philadelphia Bulletin on July 11th, 2007