Bolton: Israel Could Strike Iran Before Year's End

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Israel's window for a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities is narrowing considerably, and Israeli leaders may have to make a decision to strike before the end of 2009, according to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. 

Bolton, writing in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, says Defense Secretary Robert Gates was sent to Israel this week to urge the Israelis not to exercise its military option against Iran.

But Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak bluntly stated while standing next to Gates that Israel believes no option -- including the military option -- should be excluded. 

"This is our policy," Barak said. "We mean it. We recommend to others to take the same position but we cannot dictate it to anyone."

The Obama administration has been shifting tactics in recent weeks, somewhat downplaying the expected results from its longstanding plan to negotiate with Iran's dictators.

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that a "defense umbrella" could cover U.S. allies in the Middle East to protect against Iranian attacks in the event it succeeds in developing nuclear weapons.  But Bolton believes that because Israeli leaders know that the missile shield would have imperfections, they will "politely ignore" the offer of a defense shield as a substitute for preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the first place.

"Under the worst case scenario," Bolton writes, "Iran will continue improving its nuclear facilities and Mr. Obama will become the first U.S. president to tie the issue of Israel's nuclear capabilities into negotiations about Iran's."

Bolton concludes, "Striking Iran's nuclear program will not be precipitous or poorly thought out. Israel's attack, if it happens, will have followed enormously difficult deliberation over terrible imponderables, and years of patiently waiting on innumerable failed diplomatic efforts. Absent Israeli action, prepare for a nuclear Iran."

Sources:  The Wall Street Journal, Ha'aretz

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