US rattles saber against Iran in attempt to stall Israeli strike
In addition to increasing US naval activity in the region, Washington is also preparing to intensify economic sanctions against Iran’s oil industry, the New York Times reported.
The US – along with 25 other countries – will conduct extensive joint minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf in October. The move aims to increase pressure on Iran and prevent it from closing the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has also scheduled war games for this autumn, which are intended to dissuade the international community against an attack.
Washington is currently treading a fine line in the Israel-Iran dispute amid increasingly hawkish rhetoric from the Israeli government, which is pressing for an immediate strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Obama administration has urged Israel to refrain from military action and allow more time for diplomatic initiative. On Sunday, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanhayu called on world leaders to draw a “clear red line” for action against Iranian nuclear activities.
Israel has criticized Washington for its perceived unwillingness to back an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear program.
A UN report released on Thursday said that although Iran had more than doubled the number of centrifuges in its fortified underground facility at Fordo since May, the new machines are still not operational. Israel and the US accuse Iran of enriching uranium for in order to build atomic weapons. Iran denies the claims, maintaining that its nuclear activities are purely for civilian purposes.
The Israeli PM cited the new centrifuges as overwhelming evidence that the sanctions implemented by the US and other western countries had been ineffective.
"The report confirms what I have been saying for a long time, international sanctions are a burden on Iran's economy but they are not in any way delaying the advancement of Iran's nuclear program," Netanyahu said.
The Obama administration has faced increasing criticism from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for being "soft’"on Iran.
Romney previously stated that he would never allow Iran the capability to produce weapons-grade uranium. He also slammed Obama’s diplomatic stance on Iran, accusing him of endangering the US and alienating Israel.
The Obama administration is also weighing the use of covert espionage and direct military action, the New York Times reported.