Iranian nuclear program 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After a week of beating the war drums and blaring newspaper headlines, Israel
stepped out of the spotlight on the Iranian issue.
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openly admitted Monday that with an incriminating and decisive International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report scheduled to come out later this week on
Iran’s development of the bomb, it made sense for Israel to slightly distance
itself from the issue.
The rationale is quite simple: If Israel continues
to beat the war drums, the world will be able to easily dismiss Iran as a
problem for Jerusalem to deal with. By distancing itself, Israel is effectively
telling the United States and Europe that it is their time to step up and lead
the world in stopping Iran’s nuclear race.
“It is one thing for the world
to hear us warn about Iran,” one senior defense official said. “It is another thing to hear it from
the IAEA, which is supposed to be an objective UN agency.”
assuming the report is harsh enough and succeeds in stirring up enough
controversy. Israel tried to lay the groundwork with its saber-rattling last
week, which included a mysterious ballistic missile test, air force and civil
defense exercises and claims that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was trying
to recruit a majority in the cabinet to approve a strike against
Israel’s main goal at the moment is in getting the world to enforce
tougher economic sanctions on Iran. In the coming weeks, David S. Cohen,
the US Treasury Department’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial
intelligence, will arrive in Israel for talks on the heels of a recent visit to
Europe, where he tried to garner support for a crackdown on the Central Bank of
Cohen is leading the financial campaign against Iran and
works closely with Israel and particularly the IDF’s Military Intelligence and
the Mossad. His predecessor, Stuart Levey, was a frequent visitor to Israel,
where he often met with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
In addition to
sanctions against the CBI, Israel would also like to see tougher measures
against Iran’s energy sector, the main source of income for the Islamic
At the same time though, Israel – like a lot of the world – is
skeptical that sanctions can work. What they can do though is succeed in
stalling the Iranian regime’s nuclear progress, similar to the way the covert
action taken against Iran has delayed the program.
Sanctions imposed on
the CBI would, for example, make it difficult for Iran to bankroll the program
and buy components it needs to build new advanced centrifuges.
against the energy sector could cut off the source of income.
of outcome is very similar to the potential results of an Israeli military
strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Also in this case, Israel’s
capabilities are limited and the results would likely lead to a delay of about a
year or two in Iran’s program.
The threat from Iran has not changed in
recent years and has always been the same for Israel, which consistently argued
that the Iranians were working on a weapon.
What has changed is that the
Iranians are at the threshold and have mastered the technology not just of how
to enrich uranium, but also apparently how to build a bomb.
That is why
the coming months will be critical. Israel’s obvious preference is for tougher
sanctions to be imposed on Iran and to succeed in delaying the program even
more, giving time and hope for a different outcome.
What type of outcome?
Maybe a “Persian Spring.”