Claiming that all of Iran’s nuclear facilities are vulnerable and that a
military option is real and ready to be used if sanctions fail, Israel’s top
political and military leadership issued a series of warnings to the Islamic
Republic on Thursday in some of the most candid comments on the nuclear threat
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Defense Minister Ehud
Barak said there was a consensus among many nations today that if diplomacy and
sanctions failed to stop Iran, a military strike should be launched.
sanctions don’t achieve the desired goal of stopping [Iran’s] military nuclear
program, there will be a need to consider taking action,” he
Barak said he saw Iran as nearing a stage “which may render any
physical strike as impractical."
“A nuclear Iran will be more complicated
to deal with, more dangerous and more costly in blood than if it were stopped
today,” he said. “In other words, he who says in English ‘later’ may find that
‘later is too late.’”
Barak’s threat was backed up earlier in the day by Vice
Premier Moshe Ya’alon who said that Iran needed to be stopped “one way or
another” and that a credible military threat needed to be on the table, a
message also delivered by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz on Wednesday
Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, dismissed arguments that
underground Iranian nuclear sites such as the Fordow facility might be
invulnerable to bunker-buster bombs.
“From my military experience, human
beings will know how to penetrate any installation protected by other human
beings. Ultimately all the facilities can be hit,” he said.
the day, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that Iran
has created a stockpile of enriched uranium that could be used to manufacture
four nuclear weapons.
Kochavi said that once Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the decision to go to the “breakout
stage” and begin enriching uranium to military-grade levels, it would take the
Iranians a year to make a crude device and another year or two to manufacture a
nuclear warhead that can be installed on a ballistic missile.
said, has obtained 4 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent and another 100
kilograms enriched to 20%.
“Iran’s motivations are: to create hegemony in
the region; deterrence; and to become an international player,” Kochavi said.
“They claim that they are developing the program for peaceful purposes but our
intelligence shows without a doubt that Iran is continuing its work on
developing a nuclear weapon.”
Israel’s increased threats came as The
Washington Post reported that US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta believes
Israel will attack Iran in April, May or June.
According to the report,
written by the paper’s senior opinion writer David Ignatius, Panetta is
concerned that Israel will attack before Iran enters the so-called “immunity
zone” when its nuclear facilities will be heavily fortified and a military
strike will no longer succeed.
The term “immunity zone” has been coined
by Barak in reference to Iran’s recent decision to activate the Fordow
enrichment facility that is buried close to 100 meters under a mountain near the
city of Qom. Barak has said in the past that Fordow could not be destroyed in a
conventional military strike.
“Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
doesn’t want to leave the fate of Israel dependent on American action,” Ignatius
wrote. According to the report, Israel’s strike against Iran’s nuclear
facilities could last five days, which would be followed by a United
In his speech, Ya’alon revealed that Iran
had been developing a missile with a range of 10,000 km. that would have been
capable of reaching the United States. He said that the missile was destroyed,
though, in the mysterious explosion that rocked a missile base near Tehran on
November 12, killing 17 Iranian troops, including the father of Iran’s missile
According to Ya’alon, the missile was based on a solid fuel
propellant and would have significantly increased the Islamic Republic’s
Ya’alon also said that Turkey is helping Iran
bypass the sanctions that have been imposed on it in recent
According to the vice premier, who was in the United States last
week for talks on Iran with senior officials from the Obama administration,
Turkey was helping Iran circumvent the sanctions by allowing it to use its
Ya’alon said that the Israeli government was committed to
stopping Iran’s nuclear program “in one way or another.”
“We need a
credible military option. The Iranians understand the West has capabilities, but
as long as the Iranians don’t think that the West has the political stomach and
determination to use it they will not stop,” Ya’alon said. “Currently
they don’t think that the world is determined.”
Reuters contributed to