JERUSALEM -- An Israeli official said Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to persuade his Cabinet to authorize a military strike against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program -- a discussion that comes as Israel successfully tests a missile believed capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Iran.
It remained unclear whether Israel was genuinely poised to strike or if it was saber-rattling to prod the international community into taking a tougher line on Iran. Israeli leaders have long hinted at a military option, but they always seemed mindful of the practical difficulties, the likelihood of a furious counterstrike and the risk of regional mayhem.
The developments unfolded as the International Atomic Energy Agency is due to focus on the Iranian program later this month. The West wants to set a deadline for Iran to start cooperating with an agency probe of suspicions that Tehran is secretly experimenting with components of a weapons program.
Israeli leaders have said they favor a diplomatic solution, but recent days have seen a spate of Israeli media reports on a possible strike, accompanied by veiled threats from top politicians.
In a speech to parliament this week, Netanyahu said a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a "dire threat" to the world and "a grave, direct threat on us, too."
His hawkish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was dismissive of the reports but added: "We are keeping all the options on the table."
The government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive internal deliberations, told the AP that the option is now being debated at the highest levels.