Washington: The United States has told France that Israel could strike Iran without US military support but the operation might not be successful, according to a leaked document published on Sunday.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates gave his assessment at a meeting on February 8 in Paris with former French defence minister Herve Morin, according to a secret summary of the session that was posted on the WikiLeaks website, part of a massive document dump of classified cables.

Asked by Morin if Israel had the capability to strike Iran without US assistance, Gates "responded that he didn't know if they would be successful, but that Israel could carry out the operation," it said.
But Gates downplayed the value of any military operation against Iran, according to the document.

The American defence secretary told Morin that he "believed a conventional strike by any nation would only delay Iranian plans by one to three years, while unifying the Iranian people to be forever embittered against the attacker," it said.

Gates has made the same point in public remarks, underlining the potential risks of any military action against Iran over its nuclear programme and arguing in favour of economic sanctions and diplomacy.