WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama's administration is undertaking “a range of steps short of war” that it hopes will prevent an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, The New York Times reported Monday.
The measures are designed to force Tehran to negotiate more seriously over its nuclear programme and offer Israeli officials a credible alternative to a military strike on the Islamic state, the paper said.
“The Obama administration is moving ahead with a range of steps short of war that it hopes will forestall an Israeli attack, while forcing the Iranians to take more seriously negotiations that are all but stalemated,” it said.
Citing unnamed military officials, the paper said the United States and more than 25 other countries will this month hold the largest-ever mine-sweeping exercise in the Gulf in what is seen as a bid to prevent Iran from trying to block oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz.
Washington is also completing a new radar system in Qatar that would combine with radars already in place in Israel and Turkey to form a broad arc of antimissile coverage, the report said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said last week that Iran has doubled its uranium enrichment capacity at the underground Fordo facility in spite of UN Security Council resolutions, sanctions and talk of Israeli military action.
The UN nuclear watchdog also said its ability to inspect the Parchin military base, where it suspects Iran conducted nuclear weapons research in the past, has been “significantly hampered” by a suspected clean-up.
With these developments in mind, the US and Israeli intelligence agencies are debating possible successors to “Olympic Games,” the covert cyberoperation that infected Iran's nuclear centrifuges with a computer virus and sent them spinning out of control, The Times said.
The Obama administration hopes that ramping up measures on Tehran will give Israel a way to back off from a military attack, which would almost certainly unleash a new conflict in the Middle East, the paper reported.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the international community of failing to draw a “clear red line” for Iran over its nuclear programme.
“Iran doesn't see determination from the international community to stop its nuclear programme,” he said.