The U.S. still believes that Iran is not on the verge of building a nuclear weapon, despite comments by Israel's defense minister that Washington has changed its assessment.
A National Security Council spokesman confirmed Friday the U.S. government continues to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon, and believes there is time to continue diplomatic efforts to dissuade it from doing so.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio on Thursday that a new U.S. intelligence report brings Washington's assessment closer to the Israeli intelligence community's view that the Islamic Republic has made "significant" progress toward military nuclear capability.
Barak was commenting in response to a question about a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz earlier Thursday. The report said President Barak Obama had received a new National Intelligence Estimate report echoing the Israeli assessment of Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons capability.
Haaretz on Friday quoted an unnamed "senior Israeli official" as saying that due to the Iranian nuclear threat, the "sword at our throat is a lot sharper than the sword at our throat before the Six-Day War" in 1967, one of the four times Israel fought the armies of its Arab neighbors.
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said Friday that Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to attack Iran's nuclear sites before the U.S. election in November but that the top officials of Israel's military and intelligence agencies all oppose attacking Iran at this time.
The West suspects Iran wants to build nuclear weapons. Iranian officials have in the past threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. Israel has hinted at an attack if diplomatic efforts and sanctions fail to eliminate Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.