Defense Minister Ehud Barak played down speculation on Saturday that Israel and US-led allies were waging clandestine war on Iran, saying sanctions and the threat of military strikes were still the way to curb its nuclear program.
Barak was asked in an interview whether two explosions in Iran last month showed "the war has already begun" through sabotage.
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"I don't think so," he told Channel 2. "I think that the answer to your question is negative."
One of last month's explosions in Iran killed at least a dozen members
of the Revolutionary Guards, including a general. Iran called it an
accident that occurred while weapons were being moved.
The Iranians have suffered from computer viruses in industrial systems.
Several nuclear scientists have been killed or disappeared over the
years in what Tehran says were Israeli or US covert operations.
The idea that such operations may have escalated to include spectacular
blasts with double-digit death tolls has stirred concern in Israel,
where some commentators warned of a possible spillover into reprisals by
Iran or its sympathizers abroad.
Barak neither confirmed nor denied that Israel or Western powers were
trying to delay Iran's uranium enrichment and missile programs through
sabotage. But his remarks signaled doubt in the long-term efficacy of
any such tactics.
"I have nothing to say about the actions themselves. I just say that if
you compare the situation eight years ago, or four years ago, to today's
situation, the Iranians are much closer to nuclear capability," he
"Therefore the sanctions have to be intensified, quick, determined ...
and therefore everyone is saying that no option should be taken off the
table," Barak added, using a phrase favored by Israel and the United
States to show they consider military strikes on Iran's nuclear sites a
Barak said Israel and the United States were coordinating closely on
Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons and has vowed to retaliate
for any preemptive attack.
But the Jewish state has sovereignty and ultimate responsibility for its
security, Barak added - comments that, in the past, have been widely
interpreted as a threat to strike Iran unilaterally if the Israelis
deems diplomacy a dead end.On Friday
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta used some of his strongest language
yet to explain why Washington is wary of the consequences of any such
Addressing a pro-Israel forum in Washington, Panetta said an attack
could disrupt the already fragile economies of Europe and the United
States, trigger Iranian retaliation against US forces, and ultimately
spark a popular backlash in Iran that would bolster its rulers.
It also may not be effective. Panetta cited estimates from the Israelis
that a military strike might set back Iran's nuclear program by one to
two years "at best."
Iran has weathered several rounds of sanctions passed by the UN Security
Council and Western powers. A UN watchdog report last month suggested
Iran has worked on a nuclear bomb program, heightening the international