Freshly armed Israel calls for tightening screws on Iran
Netanyahu and Biden met on the sidelines of an American-Jewish conference in New Orleans. According to Western media, the Israeli leader told Biden that the “only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action… if it doesn't tame its ambitions to build a nuclear weapon."
The comments have provoked concern in Washington, coming as it does just days after Israel received its first shipment of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) from the United States.
Biden reiterated, however, that the Obama White House, which has pledged in the past to talk to sit down and talk to Ahmadinejad, is determined to find a “peaceful resolution” to the stalemate.
"We continue to seek a peaceful resolution and to hope Iranian leaders will reconsider their current destructive and debilitating course," the US Vice President said in comments before the influential Jewish Federation of North America in New Orleans. "But let me be very clear about this: We are also absolutely committed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates supported Biden’s commitment to finding a diplomatic end to Iran’s nuclear program, which some in the West say is a cover for a nuclear weapon program. Tehran has repeatedly denied that it is attempting to build a nuclear bomb.
"I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the action that it needs to end its nuclear weapons program," Gates told a news conference in Melbourne following security talks with his Australian counterparts.
Sanctions against Iran are beginning to bite, Gates added.
"We are prepared to do what is necessary,” the defense secretary said. “But at this point we continue to believe that the political-economic approach that we are taking is, in fact, having an impact in Iran."
Israel's talk of a military threat has raised speculation in the Israeli media that Netanyahu, who is facing stiff international criticism for failing to continue with a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the contested West Bank, was attempting to divert attention away from the question of Palestinian statehood.
A 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank expired in late September, just weeks after direct peace talks began in Washington.
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York on Thursday where they will discuss ways to jumpstart stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Israeli Prime Minister, however, will not meet with President Barack Obama, who is on a 10-day trip to Asia.
The US president, who just two years ago took the United States and the world by storm with his message of hope and change, suffered a humiliating setback in last week’s mid-term elections, as the Democrats lost its majority in the House of Representatives and gave up seats in the Senate.
Some speculate that Netanyahu, a shrewd Israeli politician with a keen nose for shifting political winds, chose this critical moment in Obama’s struggling political career to press for “a military threat” against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Plus, it certainly does not hurt Netanyahu’s political hand that Israel just received its first batch of highly sophisticated missile courtesy of the United States.
According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, the 250-lb (113.6-kg) bomb, known as the GBU-39, was developed by Boeing Company “as a low-cost weapon capable of high-precision and low-collateral damage strikes…”
The Israeli Air Force has named the new bomb “Sharp Hail.” The total cost of the deal was $77 million.
Israel, which is the first country outside of the United States to receive the advanced weapon, received approval from the US Congress in late 2008 to buy 1,000 units.
US weapons experts say the bomb is capable of penetrating at least 90 cm (35.4 inches) of steel-reinforced concrete.
The first Israeli planes to be outfitted with the GBU-39 are the F-15Is, the Jerusalem Post reported, which are capable of carrying 20 of the bombs on its wings and fuselage, thus transforming the aircraft into what defense analysts have termed a veritable “killing machine.”
Just last week, Ahmadinejad criticized Russia for backing out of a contract that would have seen Russia providing the Islamic Republic with the sophisticated S-300 missile defense system.
The Kremlin decided against delivery of the weapon systems after the UN Security Council slapped further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.