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EXCLUSIVE: Israeli Deputy Speaker Says U.S. May Need To Launch Preemptive Attack On Iranian Nuclear Program

The United States is fast approaching a time when it will no longer be able to ignore the threats of the Iranian nuclear program led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a top official in the Israeli government told ThinkProgress Saturday. In an interview at the Faith and Freedom Conference, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Danny Danon told ThinkProgress that “we are far beyond diplomatic sanctions and resolutions” regarding Iran, and the time when military action may be America’s best hope is coming soon.

Comparing Ahmadinejad to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Danon would not rule out a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and said that while adding another war to the list of increasingly unpopular conflicts in which the U.S. is already engaged may not be popular, it may be necessary to protect both the U.S. and Israel. Danon stated that a coalition of Western countries may need to go so far as to take out Ahmadinejad, just as it they did with Hussein in Iraq:

WALDRON: Are you suggesting that…should the U.S. take preemptive military action against the Iranians?

DANON: I think it should not be only the burden of the U.S. But the Western society must come and put a timeline to Ahmadinejad. If you don’t finish by this date, we will knock you down. The same way we did with the Iraqi leader, we should do with the Iranian leader. You cannot ignore it. […]

I think if the American people would realize that there is a force that is gaining in momentum and is coming after them, they will be able to fight. Today because it is so far away, so remote, people say, ‘Well we see what is happening in Afghanistan, in Iraq, we don’t want to go into another adventure.’ But Iran is different, because Iranian leadership speaks directly against the American people. You will be able to ignore it for a short while, but in the long term, you will have to face it.

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Danon, a member of the rightist Likud party, is not the first Israeli official to back potential military action against Iran. In the U.S., meanwhile, the idea has also been endorsed by neoconservatives like Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and former UN representative John Bolton, who said military action was the “only option” for dealing with Iran. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and many of his Republican colleagues — including potential presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) — recently revived a resolution backing Israel if it decided to take its own military action against Iran.

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Former Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan, however, has a different view. Dagan has long cautioned American and Israeli leaders — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — against attacking Iran. Dagan has also referred to strikes as “the stupidest thing I have ever heard” and recently reiterated his concern that an attack would have devastating effects on Israel. And many former Israeli security chiefs “want to dial back the rhetoric on Iran and stop the Netanyahu-led talk of military action.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke out against military action last year, saying Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us, and I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences.”

And as ThinkProgress’ Matt Yglesias notes, it is likely that a direct preemptive strike would actually embolden Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Rather than deter the Iranians, a preemptive strike is “likely to persuade Iran’s leaders that its existing deterrent capabilities are inadequate to deter aggression,” justifying further advancement of Iran’s nuclear program.