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US reported to have briefed Israel on Iran plan

US official Tom Donilon is said to have made the briefing.

AFP/Getty Images

US official Tom Donilon is said to have made the briefing.

JERUSALEM — An Israeli newspaper reported Sunday that the Obama administration’s top security official has briefed Israel on US plans for a possible attack on Iran, seeking to reassure it that Washington is prepared to act militarily should diplomacy and sanctions fail to pressure Tehran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential talks, said the article in the Haaretz daily was incorrect.

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Haaretz said National Security Adviser Tom Donilon laid out the plans before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a dinner at a visit to Israel earlier this month. It cited an unidentified senior American official as the source of its report, which came out as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was telling Israel he would back an Israeli military strike against Iran.

The American official also said Donilon shared information on US weapons that could be used for such an attack, and on the US military’s ability to reach Iranian nuclear facilities buried deep underground, the newspaper said.

Haaretz cited another US official involved in the talks with Israel as concluding that ‘‘the time for a military operation against Iran has not yet come.’’

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a confidential meeting, said, ‘‘Nothing in the article is correct. Donilon did not meet the prime minister for dinner, he did not meet him one-on-one, nor did he present operational plans to attack Iran.’’

He had no information when asked if Donilon had discussed any kind of attack plans with any Israeli official. Haaretz said another Israeli official attended for part of the meeting.

The US Embassy had no immediate comment. Haaretz cited Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, as declining to comment on the confidential discussion between Netanyahu and Donilon. The White House also declined to comment.

Both Israel and the United States think Iran’s ultimate aim is to develop weapons technology, and not just produce energy and medical isotopes as Tehran claims.

US officials are concerned that Israel might attack Iranian nuclear facilities prematurely, and have been trying to convince Israeli leaders they can depend on Washington to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly said they would not contract out their country’s security to another nation.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Tunisia on Sunday, beginning a five-day Mideast tour, which will include a stop in Israel.

Panetta said he believes Israeli leaders still support an international campaign of economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

‘‘My view is that they have not made any decisions with regards to’’ attacking Iran, he said.

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