A political expert says US Defense Secretary Panetta’s recent remarks about Israel’s imminent attack on Iran in fact aim to put more political pressure on Tehran to make concessions to Washington.

Gareth Porter, a columnist for the Globalresearch website, noted that the White House is trying to take advantage of the current crisis atmosphere over the Israeli threat by making it look more urgent and force Iran to make diplomatic concessions to the United States.

On February 5, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Washington Post there is a strong possibility that Israel will launch an attack on Iran in April, May, or June 2012, before Iran enters what Israelis described as a "zone of immunity to commence building a nuclear bomb."

“The real aim of the leak brings into sharper focus a contradiction in the Barack Obama administration's Iran policy between its effort to reduce the likelihood of being drawn into a war with Iran and its desire to exploit the Israeli threat of war to gain diplomatic leverage on Iran,” Porter said.

A tell-tale indication of Panetta's real intention, he added, was the very specific mention of the period from April through June as the likely time frame for an Israeli attack.

“Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had identified this as the crucial period in which Iran would have entered a so-called 'zone of immunity' - the successful movement of some unknown proportion of Iran's uranium enrichment assets to the highly protected Fordo enrichment plant,” he stated.

The expert said another reason for mentioning that period is its connection with the expiration of the six-month period delay in the application of the European Union's apparently harsh sanctions against the Iranian oil sector.

Porter noted that the US has also delayed its own sanctions on Iranian oil for six months recognizing that six-month period as a window for negotiations with Iran aimed at defusing the crisis over its nuclear program.

“So, it [the US administration] was determined to use that same time frame to put pressure on Iran to accommodate US and European demands,” he added.

According to Porter, another indication in the Washington Post report which gave away Panetta’s true intent was his later comment.

"[US] administration officials caution that Tehran shouldn't misunderstand: the United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israeli population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel's defense," Porter quoted Washington Post as saying.

Porter concluded by saying that the Panetta leak appears to confirm the fears of analysts following the US administration's Iran strategy closely that its effort to distance the United States from an Israeli attack would be ineffective because of competing interests.

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News ID 181466