White House on Israeli leaks: ‘We share a great deal of information’ about Iran

Share

White House spokesman Jay Carney responded to press questions Monday about Israeli leaks of alleged U.S. intelligence on Iran.

“We have a shared interest with Israel, countries in the region and around the world in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and we cooperate accordingly,” Carney told journalists aboard Air Force One en route to Nebraska Monday when asked about Israeli leaks of U.S. Iran intelligence.

Asked again if leaks are complicating the matter, Carney didn’t exactly deny that any such leaks had occurred.

“We, as you know, have a robust, cooperative relationship with Israel on security matters; we share a great deal of information, and especially about Iran,” he said.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak raised eyebrows in the United States last week when he said that a new U.S. intelligence report “making the rounds” in Washington “transforms the Iranian situation into an even more urgent one.”

“Apparently a report by American intelligence agencies – I don’t know if it’s under the title NIE or under another title – which is making the rounds of high offices …comes very close to our own estimate, I would say, as opposed to earlier American estimates,” Barak told Israel Radio August 9, CBS News reported. (However, the last US NIE on Iran is from late 2010, experts told Al-Monitor, who said it would not be unusual if there was a new, more focused report on a narrow aspect of Iran’s nuclear program.)

Carney reiterated Monday that the US administration and its allies believe “there remains time and space to pursue a diplomatic course” with Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said that “they had not yet made a decision about taking action, kinetic action,” Carney noted.

A flurry of recent Israeli media reports have reflected intensifying debate and confusion in Israel and beyond over signs that Israeli leaders are contemplating possibly striking Iran in the fall.

“If it were up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, an Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be launched in the coming autumn months, before the US election in November,” leading Israeli columnists Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth August 10th. “Of course, the fact that Israel’s two most senior figures are determined to adopt the decision and pass it in the cabinet is of immense significance. It is no less significant that not one high-ranking official in the Israeli establishment … currently supports an Israeli attack.”

Israeli media reported Monday that US President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may meet in Washington in late September.

Full excerpt of the Carney-press exchange on the matter below:

Q    Jay, also on foreign policy, is the President alarmed about further leaks and, apparently, the renewed debate in Israel about the possibility of attacking Iran?

MR. CARNEY:  We regret that Iran has not yet made a strategic decision to address the international community’s serious concerns regarding its nuclear program and the ongoing P5-plus-1 talks.  However, we continue to believe that there is time and space for diplomacy.  The opportunity remains for Iran to take advantage of this process by taking the necessary steps to come into compliance with its international obligations.

In the meantime, even as we continue P5-plus-1 talks, multilateral efforts to increase the pressure on Iran have not ceased at all.  The United States continues to work with its partners around the world to increase the scale and scope on sanctions on Iran, as you know, making clear that such pressure will only grow until Iran changes course.

Continued diplomatic efforts are not inconsistent with expanded pressure.  That is the essence of the two-track approach that we’ve taken, which is to step up, week by week, the pressure on Iran, the isolation on Iran, through sanctions and other means, in an effort to convince Iran that they need to make that strategic decision to abide by their international obligations and renounce their nuclear weapons ambitions.  And we work with the Israelis as well as all of our partners in that effort.

Q    But the question was specifically about Israel.  Is there concern, or do you have — are you having talks with them about their plans?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we, as you know, have a robust, cooperative relationship with Israel on security matters; we share a great deal of information, and especially about Iran.  And I would say that — I would point you to remarks that Prime Minister Netanyahu made not that long ago where he said that they had not yet made a decision about taking action, kinetic action.  And we believe, and certainly share this with our partners, that there remains time and space to pursue a diplomatic course that is backed up by the very firm approach we’ve taken on sanctions.

There is every reason to continue the P5-plus-1 talks while the time and space remains.  But let’s be absolutely clear that the President’s policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Q    Are leaks complicating this whole issue?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the President’s views and the administration’s policies towards Iran are clear.  And I think, as I’ve said before, we have a shared interest with Israel, countries in the region and around the world in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and we cooperate accordingly.

 

(Photo: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (R), U.S. President Barack Obama’s political strategist David Plouffe (L) and Obama’s chief speechwriter Jon Favreau (C) step off Marine One as they follow Obama (L) to Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, January 25, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed.)