Israel and the United States appeared to have shelved any decision on using force against Iran, hoping to take stock of possible joint military options against Tehran later this year.

Visiting U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey has held talks with the top rung of Israel’s military and political leadership, at a time when Washington has publicly opposed any unilateral Israeli military strikes against Iran. Yet, the possibility of joint military operations against Iran had risen dramatically after Israel and the United States had publicised during the heat the of the Strait of Hormuz crisis, their decision to hold combined military exercises on an unprecedented scale. During the course of its naval exercises, Vilayat-90, Iran had announced its intention to close the international oil transit passage of the Strait of Hormuz, in case the West blocked its energy trade.

However, the proposed high profile manoeuvres between Israel and the U.S. have now been postponed to later this year — a step that has significantly lowered military tensions in the Persian Gulf area. “We have many interests in common in the region in this very dynamic time and the more we can continue to engage each other, the better off we’ll all be,” Gen. Dempsey was quoted as saying.

The visit to Israel by the top U.S. military commander also follows the delivery of a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei from President Barack Obama where he has combined his warning to Iran against closing the Strait of Hormuz, with an offer for talks that could lead to reconciliation; Iranian officials were quoted as saying.

Earlier, top U.S. officials, including defence secretary Leon Panetta had urged Israel not to attack Iran on its own. But signalling that the Gen. Dempsey was not in Israel to read out the riot order, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on January 18, 2012 that the U.S. General’s trip was not directed at curbing Israel from attacking nuclear facilities in Iran.

With the next round of Israel-U.S. military exercises scheduled for the second-half of this year, there is enough time for the interplay of diplomacy and economic coercion, enforced through sanctions against Iran to play its part, analysts say. In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy also said that instead of war, sanctions should be the way forward on Iran. "Military intervention would not solve the problem, but it would unleash war and chaos in the Middle East," Mr. Sarkozy said while offering New Year’s greetings to members of the diplomatic corps.

More In: International | News