By Samuel Burke, CNN
Reports that Iran is drawing still closer to nuclear weapons capability are ratcheting up the already high tensions between Israel and its ally the United States.
According to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges it has installed underneath a mountain at the Fordo complex, beyond the reach of an Israeli attack.
Karim Sadjadpour, an expert on Iran at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says there are two ways of looking at that report.
“One is that Iran has made some forward progress. But another way of looking at it is that Iran’s approach has been fairly deliberate and mindful of not wanting to cross certain red lines that could trigger military action.”
But Israeli officials have publically stated they believe Iran is ramming ahead.
“Well, I would argue that they’re not in a nuclear sprint,” Sadjadpour says. “They have taken a much more deliberate approach – it’s more about a nuclear brisk walk.”
Diplomatic talks on Iran’s nuclear program have gone nowhere. And with no progress to report, the media is filled with rumors and speculation; among them is that an Israeli attack on Iran is imminent.
In the Israeli press there are reports that frustration over the U.S.’ lack of support for an attack on Iran resulted in a shouting match between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.
The U.S. government is denying these rumors.
David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for The New York Times says there’s been tension for a number of years, but right now, with the U.S. Presidential election looming in November, the pressure is mounting.
“[Israel’s] leverage is highest before the election, because if they did act, President Obama would have very little choice other than to back them completely, even though he has said that an attack right now would be counterproductive. That’s the core of this increasingly tense back-and-forth between the U.S. and Israel, but also involves the question of whether sanctions or other covert action would be more useful at this point.”
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Britain's Guardian newspaper, "I don't want to be complicit," if Israel attacks Iran. The Israeli press focused on his use of the world “complicit.”
But Sanger says he thinks the message is actually that if Israel acts unilaterally – without a U.N. blessing and without a broader coalition – then it could be increasingly isolated in the region.
“You might actually see a wave of sympathy toward Iran at a time that the U.S., working with its European allies and working with Israel, have been trying to build up this big coalition to squeeze Iran’s oil revenues, to participate in other activities, including some covert activities, to make it much harder for the Iranians to get to nuclear fuel.”