JERUSALEM, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that while American military action can eliminate Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, an Israeli strike will only temporarily set it back, local media reported Wednesday.
"[A strike] is a defined and specific mission that the United States is capable of executing perfectly, whereas we are capable of causing significant damage," Netanyahu earlier this week told the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), an international pro-Israel advocacy group, according to a Wednesday report in the Ma'ariv daily.
The remarks came after a relatively long lull in public comments by Israeli leaders about the Iranian issue. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is due to retire in the coming weeks, had previously hinted that Israel was prepared to preemptively strike (on its own, if need be) Tehran's enrichment facilities if international diplomacy and sanctions fail.
In apparent toned down rhetoric, Netanyahu said in his speech to the AJC on Monday that the U.S. capability to successfully halt Iran's nuclear progress via military action hinges on the timing: before Tehran completes the second stage of 20 percent-enriched uranium.
After that, "Iran will have enough enriched material to assemble a bomb within a limited time," Netanyahu told the AJC governors, who are currently in Israel on the first leg of a regional tour.
According to the Ma'ariv report, Netanyahu's speech "reflected skepticism" over America's willingness to employ military force to resolve the Iranian issue. A recent article in The Washington Post disclosed excerpts of a conversation between U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense-designate Chuck Hagel, in which the latter said Washington should reconsider its military operations around the world.
Iran's nuclear program has been the focal point of friction between the United States and its closest ally. Tensions came to a head last September, with Netanyahu openly criticizing the Obama administration for refusing to set clear "red lines" for Tehran that would prompt U.S. military action. Under such circumstances, Netanyahu said, the United States has no "moral right" to demand that Israel refrain from striking on its own.
Meanwhile, The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday night dismissed media reports of an explosion that allegedly decimated the Fordow underground nuclear facility near Qom on Jan. 21. The UN nuclear watchdog said the Iranian denial correlates reports by its inspectors who visited the installation in the wake of the alleged explosion and found it intact.
Rheza Halili, the Iranian source who leaked the details of the alleged explosion at Fordow to the media, said Tuesday that the West will soon discover a central Iranian nuclear site whose existence has not been known until today.