Israel's prime minister, in an address to Congress on Tuesday, held out the threat of a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, saying the only time Iran halted its nuclear program was when it feared such an attack.
Benjamin Netanyahu did not go so far as to say Israel would carry out such an assault. But he told Congress that militant Islam was threatening the world and urged the U.S. never to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
"The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu has said before that Iran won't curb its nuclear ambitions unless it thinks it is threatened with military action.
Israeli officials have said repeatedly that Iran must not be allowed to become a nuclear power and that all options to prevent that must remain on the table. But they have never explicitly said Israel would carry out such a strike.
Israel destroyed an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor in a 1981 airstrike. In that case, destroying that one target was enough to cripple the nuclear program.
But Israel's recently retired spy chief said a military attack would be "stupid."
Meir Dagan reasoned that an effective attack on Iran would be difficult because Iranian nuclear facilities are scattered and mobile, and because a strike would be liable to trigger war with Iran and possibly Syria.
Israel considers Iran to be its most formidable foe and like the West, does not believe Tehran's claims that it is not developing nuclear weapons.