JERUSALEM (AP) — President Barack Obama's national security adviser huddled with Israeli leaders on Sunday to discuss Iran's nuclear program following growing speculation that Israel is planning military action against Tehran.
Tom Donilon was to meet with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak before leaving on Monday.
Ahead of his visit, the White House said discussions would include Iran as well as the unrest in neighboring Syria. It gave no details on what message Donilon would bring, saying only that the visit was "the latest in a series of regular, high-level consultations" with Israel.
Last month, the U.S. military chief, Martin Dempsey, visited Israel to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. And next month, Netanyahu is expected at the White House.
U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to attack Iran's nuclear program.
Both countries, along with the West, believe Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb. But their responses to the perceived threat appear to be diverging.
The U.S. says tough international sanctions against Iran must be given more time to work. Israel, while welcoming the sanctions, has warned that time is running out and all options, including military action, must be considered. Israeli officials have said Iran could be capable of building a bomb within a year.
In an interview to be aired Sunday on CNN, Dempsey said an attack on Iran at this point would be unwelcome.
"I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for military action is upon us," he said, according to a transcript of the interview. Such a strike would be "destabilizing" and "not prudent," he added, and unable to achieve Israel's long-term objectives of neutralizing the Iranian nuclear threat.
Israeli experts believe an attack on Iran could set back, but not destroy, the Iranian nuclear program, which is scattered in heavily fortified bunkers across the country.
At the same time, it is widely believed an Israeli strike could set off a regionwide war, put U.S. forces in the region in danger, and cause global oil prices to spike.
- Iranian nuclear program