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Intel chairman: Israel likely to wait until after the US election to strike Iran

TAMPA, Fla. — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on Tuesday said he believes the Israeli government is likely to wait until after the U.S. election to take military action against Iran.

Rogers said he’d been left with “no doubt in my mind” that the U.S. election cycle was part of the Israelis’ calculations after a recent trip where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials.

The government of Iran says it is seeking to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but the claim is met with deep skepticism by the United States and other members of the international community.

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An imminent report into Iran’s program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to conclude that the country has installed hundreds of new centrifuges that could hasten the production of enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.

The Israelis have already decided that “they have to take some action” to deal with the Iranian threat, Rogers said at a breakfast panel at the Republican National Convention hosted by The Hill.

Asked why the Israelis would wait until after November’s presidential election under those circumstances, Rogers replied: “Because I think they believe that maybe after the election they could talk the United States into cooperating.”

Speaking at the same event, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said that it was a diplomatic “disaster” for the Obama administration not to have given the government of Pakistan advance warning of the plan to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

While he acknowledged that the refusal to tell Pakistan about the raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound could be “argued either side” on strategic grounds, he said the Obama administration had “created a problem with a historic ally.”

“We went in there to their territory, did not give them a heads-up on taking down Osama bin Laden, and diplomatically that was a disaster.”

Both Rogers and Kingston expressed concerns that the defense cuts that would be enacted as part of the sequestration process would have detrimental effects on national security. 

Mark Green, a former Republican House member who later served as U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, agreed that the sequestered cuts need to be stopped.

“The whole world is watching,” Green said. “Signs of weakness are extraordinarily dangerous.” 

At a separate panel event sponsored by The Hill, Chip Saltsman, a longtime Republican operative who served as campaign manager of Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid, expressed concern that Mitt Romney continues to lag President Obama in likability.

“There’s so many people who say ‘yeah, he can fix it, but I don’t like him,’ ” Saltsman said.

Bob Stevenson, who served as chief spokesman for Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) during his time as majority leader, said that the convention provides an opportunity to change that.

“People, I think, are going to see a different Mitt Romney this week,” he said.

GOP strategist John Feehery, who is also a columnist for The Hill, added: “This convention is about trying to paint Mitt Romney as a credible president. If people think this guy can walk into the White House and fix things, he will win the election.”