As concerns over Iran’s nuclear program escalate, Obama sends national security adviser to Israel

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

At a crucial time in the standoff over Iran's suspect nuclear weapon, President Obama is sending his national security adviser to Israel from February 18-20 to discuss that tense showdown as well as the bloody crackdown in Syria, the White House announced Friday.

Tom Donilon will meet with senior Israeli officials to discuss "a range of issues, including Iran, Syria," the White House said in a statement.

The statement also noted that Donilon's visit "is the latest in a series of regular, high-level consultations between the United States and Israel, consistent with our strong bilateral partnership, and part of our unshakable commitment to Israel's security,"

News of the trip comes as the United States and its allies are weighing the impact of economic sanctions on Iran as well as Tehran's offer, in a letter to the European Union, to resume negotiations over its nuclear program. There is also talk in US and other media that Israeli patience may be running out and that some kind of military action could be months, or less, away.

"We remain willing to engage in talks with the Iranians so long as they have a constructive approach to those negotiations, and that means a constructive approach that understands that the purpose is for Iran to live up to its international obligations and to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions," Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday.

Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons and says its atomic program aims to produce energy for civilian purposes, but Iranian leaders have recently acknowledged that several new rounds of sanctions are hurting the Islamic republic's economy.

"The sanctions have had a positive — well, they've had a harmful effect on the Iranian economy, a disruptive effect on the Iranian regime, and that was the intention," said Carney.

"We will continue to pressure an isolate Iran unless and until it changes its behavior," he said.

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