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US cables;Australia fears Israeli military strike on Iran

SYDNEY: Australian intelligence agencies fear Israel may launch a military strike on Iran to knock out its nuclear facilities, which they said could lead to nuclear war, leaked US diplomatic cables showed Monday.

Secret cables from the US embassy in Canberra, provided exclusively to The Sydney Morning Herald by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, reveal that Australian officials raised the issue with their allies on several occasions.

“The AIC’s (Australian intelligence community’s) leading concerns with respect to Iran’s nuclear ambitions centre on understanding the timeframe of a possible weapons capability, and working with the United States to prevent Israel from independently launching uncoordinated military strikes against Iran,” an embassy official wrote to Washington in March 2009.

“They are immediately concerned that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities would lead to a conventional war — or even nuclear exchange — in the Middle East involving the United States that would draw Australia into a conflict.”

Another cable sent four months earlier reported on Australian concerns about a unilateral Israeli military strike against Iran and “the likelihood of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities”.

The leaked letters also reveal that Australian intelligence agencies see Iran’s nuclear ambitions as a strategy to deter foreign attacks and argue it would be wrong to view Iran as a “rogue state”, the newspaper said.

The cables were prompted by a US initiative to solicit responses to Washington possibly engaging Tehran in a security dialogue, and concluded that Australia would likely not object to the United States if it chose to do so.

The correspondence shows that the Australian government, under both former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his successor Julia Gillard, is generally supportive of Israel.

But they say that Rudd’s previous strong condemnation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had prompted Tehran to take retaliatory measures against the Australian Embassy in Iran. The newspaper did not detail these measures but said they made it harder for officials to conduct day-to-day business.

According to one cable, Rudd told Israeli ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem that Ahmadinejad was a “loathsome individual on every level”, adding that his anti-Semitism “turns my stomach”.

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