WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blew up at the US ambassador last month because he was “at wits’ end” over what he sees as the Obama administration’s lack of clarity on Iran’s nuclear programme, a US congressman who was at the meeting said.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican, made his first public comments about the late August meeting in Israel in an interview with Michigan’s WJR radio on Tuesday.
Continued controversy over the meeting comes as President Barack Obama on Thursday night will accept his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention, where the level of the Obama administration’s support for Israel was a contentious topic.
“Right now the Israelis don’t believe that this administration is serious when they say all options are on the table, and more importantly neither do the Iranians. That’s why the programme is progressing,” Rogers said.
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes.
Israel is facing growing international pressure not to unilaterally attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and the United States has made clear it opposes any such strike.
Rogers said if the United States does not show Israel more clarity on where it draws “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear programme, then Israel might conduct a strike.
“If I were betting my house today, I would guess that they probably will do it if we don’t have a change in more clear red lines from the United States,” he said.
A spokesman for Israel’s embassy in Washington declined to comment. The State Department would not comment on private diplomatic meetings but spokesman Edgar Vasquez said, “We have a rock solid relationship and an ironclad commitment to Israel.”
The spat between Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro appears to confirm a deep chasm over how to deal with Iran, which the two allies have tried to play down publicly.
Obama has vowed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but says there is still time for sanctions and diplomacy to work. The White House says it has brokered international oil and banking sanctions that are far tougher on Iran than previous administrations achieved. (Reuters)