Obama wont trip over Netanyahus' 'red line'

US President Obama visits Israel crossing the ‘red line’ previously drawn by Benjamin Netanyahu.

US president Barack Obama. Picture: AFP.

JERUSALEM - US President Barack Obama visits Israel next week at the onset of spring - the "red line" previously drawn by his host, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to trigger an attack on Iran's nuclear sites.

But an Israeli-Iranian war, Washington's nightmare as it tries to scale back defence commitments abroad and avoid a draining Gulf oil crisis, does not appear trip-wire imminent.

Officials and analysts say Iran has warded off the Israeli threat by calibrating its mid-level uranium enrichment so that it does not accrue enough fuel for a potential first bomb - the threshold Netanyahu warned about in a United Nations speech in September.

He was presenting a worst-case extrapolation from UN nuclear inspector reports. The most recent of those, however, found a slowdown in the stockpiling of the 20 percent fissile uranium that Iran, in the face of mounting Western suspicions, says is part of an entirely peaceful programme.

Netanyahu has not publicly revised the spring-to-summer 2013 dating for his "red line". But several Israeli officials privately acknowledged it had been deferred, maybe indefinitely.

"The red line was never a deadline," one told Reuters.

The chief US military officer, General Martin Dempsey, has questioned Israel's ability to deliver lasting damage to Iran's distant, defended facilities. Netanyahu, meanwhile, has made little secret of preferring that Washington take the lead in any war.

Yet while mobilising Gulf forces and saying it was open to military force as a last resort, the Obama administration has resisted Israeli calls to present Tehran with a clear ultimatum.