The Obama administration is moving ahead with a 'range of steps short of war' that it hopes will forestall an Israeli attack on Iran, while forcing Tehran to take more seriously negotiations that are all but stalemated, a media report on Monday said.
The move by US comes as Israel openly debates whether to strike Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months. Already planned are naval exercises and new anti-missile systems in the Persian Gulf, and a more forceful clamping down on Iranian oil revenue.
"The administration is also considering new declarations by President Obama about what might bring about American military action, as well as covert activities that have been previously considered and rejected," The New York Times said in a report.
It said that later this month, the United States and more than 25 other nations will hold the largest-ever mine-sweeping exercise in the Persian Gulf, in what military officials say is a demonstration of unity and a defensive step to prevent Iran from attempting to block oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz.
The US administration is also racing to complete, in the next several months, a new radar system in Qatar that would combine with radars already in place in Israel and Turkey to form a broad arc of antimissile coverage, unnamed military officials were quoted as saying.
The message to Iran would be that even if it developed a nuclear weapon and mounted it atop its growing fleet of missiles, it could be countered by anti-missile systems, the Times said.
Some of Obama's advisers have argued that Israel needs a stronger public assurance that he is willing to take military action, well before Iran actually acquired a weapon. But other senior officials have argued that Israel is trying to corner Obama into a military commitment that he does not yet need to make.
The report said that all options are designed to buy time -- to offer Israeli officials a credible alternative to a military strike that would almost certainly trigger an Iranian reaction and, the White House and Pentagon fear, could unleash a new conflict in the Middle East.