Amid reports that Israel is preparing to bomb Iranian nuclear sites, political heavyweights in Washington and Tel Aviv make plans for a secret get-together.
Ria Novosti reported on Friday that US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is planning to visit Tel Aviv within the next two weeks to discuss a whole range of international issues, including Tehran's nuclear case, in secret meetings with the Netanyahu government.
US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, will reportedly accompany Gates.
The secret meetings come at a time when two Israeli warships, the Hanit and the Eliat, sailed through the Suez Canal within cruise-missile range of Iran earlier in the week.
A senior Israeli defense official, in a Thursday interview with the Times, said the move should be seen as serious preparations for a long-expected Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites.
"This is preparation that should be taken seriously. Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran," said the Israeli defense official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
"These maneuvers are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats," he added.
The move came ten days after a submarine -- believed to be nuclear-armed -- made a similar crossing and headed from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brought Israel closer to war with Iran, ever-since he made his politiical comeback in February.
Tel Aviv, the possessor of the sole nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, accuses Iran of secretly enriching weapons-grade uranium to attack Israel. Tehran has asserted that its uranium enrichment is a peaceful drive to produce electricity.
Washington has so far remained undecided in its response to speculations that Israel is gearing up for go-it-alone air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Vice President Joe Biden, in a recent interview, openly suggested that Washington would not stand in the way of an Israeli attack on Iran.
"Israel can determine for itself... what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," Biden said. "We cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination -- if they make a determination -- that they're existentially threatened."
The remarks were widely interpreted as a long-sought green light for Israel to go ahead and take out Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
US President Barack Obama was quick to make an attempt to correct the impression, saying that he opposed military action against Iran and instead wanted a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.
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