US and France point to upcoming action on Iran
US President Barack Obama and French leader Nicolas Sarkozy have indicated that an upcoming UN report on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme could trigger new international action.
Speaking alongside Sarkozy in a briefing at the G20 summit in Cannes on Thursday (3 November), Obama said: "We had the opportunity to also talk about a range of security issues ... The IAEA [the UN's Vienna-based nuclear watchdog] is scheduled to release a report on Iran's nuclear program next week and President Sarkozy and I agreed on the need to maintain the unprecedented international pressure on Iran."
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Sarkozy silently acquiesced the statement.
One option under consideration is to impose sanctions on Iran's cental bank.
But Obama's signal that the IAEA report on 8 November could have serious consequences comes amid signals that the US, EU countries and Israel are considering military options.
Also on Thursday in Brussels, Nato chief Anders Fogh-Rasmussen told press: "Nato has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Iran."
But the same day in Washington, state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland did not exclude military strikes. "We are going to use every means at our disposal to continue to try to increase the international pressure on Iran to meet its IAEA obligations," she told media when asked if an attack is on the cards.
A hearing in the Homeland Security subcommittee on 26 October also shed light on hawkish thinking in the US security establishment.
Retired general Jack Keane and retired CIA officer Reuel Gerecht told congressmen the US should assassinate Iranian Republican Guard officers implicated in an alleged plot to murder a Saudi diplomat in Washington.
"Why don't we kill them? We kill other people who are running terrorist opertaions against the US," Keane said. "You should hold [Republican Guard leader] Qassem Suleimani responsible. Qassem Suleimani travels a lot. He's all over the place. Go get him. Either try to capture him or kill him," Gerecht said.
Meanwhile, UK daily The Guardian on Wednesday said Britain has already made plans to support US-led air strikes because Iran is getting close to hiding its nuclear assets underground.
"The window [for air strikes] is closing, and the UK needs to do some sensible forward planning. The US could do this on their own but they won't ... We had thought this would wait until after the US election next year, but now we are not so sure," a UK defence official told the paper on condition of anonymity.
The source said the UK would fire tomahawk missiles from Royal Navy ships and submarines, provide surveillance and mid-air refuelling and let the US use its base in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean as a launch pad.
Israeli media have in recent days also reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keen to launch air strikes shortly after 8 November because the weather will soon become too cloudy for pilots.
Respected Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida later wrote that two former Israeli intelligence chiefs, Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin, leaked the news in order to undermine the operation because they believe diplomatic pressure and low-level sabotage are the best way to proceed.