London, Sept.26 : Israel had reportedly approached the United States for permission to bomb nuclear sites in Iran, but President George W. Bush had then told the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he would not back an attack on Iran.
Senior European diplomatic sources told The Guardian that Israel gave serious thought this spring to launching a military strike on Iran's nuclear sites, but had to revise that view after Washington refused to give the green signal.
The proposal was taken up during a one-on-one meeting on May 14, the sources said.
The paper says that the talks were so sensitive that no note-takers attended, but the European leader subsequently divulged to his officials the highly sensitive contents of what Olmert had told him of Bush's position.
Bush's decision to refuse to offer any support for a strike on Iran appeared to be based on two factors, the sources said. One was US concern over Iran's likely retaliation, which would probably include a wave of attacks on US military and other personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on shipping in the Persian Gulf.
The other was US anxiety that Israel would not succeed in disabling Iran's nuclear facilities in a single assault even with the use of dozens of aircraft. It could not mount a series of attacks over several days without risking full-scale war. So the benefits would not outweigh the costs.
Iran has repeatedly said it would react with force to any attack. Some western government analysts believe this could include asking Lebanon's Shia movement Hizbollah to strike at the US.
Even if Israel were to launch an attack on Iran without US approval its planes could not reach their targets without the US becoming aware of their flight path and having time to ask them to abandon their mission.