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 in years.

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.



“If sanctions don’t achieve the desired goal of stopping [Iran’s] military nuclear program, there will be a need to consider taking action,” he declared.

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 evening.

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.

Earlier in 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.

Iran, he 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.

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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 Nations-brokered cease-fire.

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 program.

According to Ya’alon, the missile was based on a solid fuel propellant and would have significantly increased the Islamic Republic’s offensive capabilities.

Ya’alon also said that Turkey is helping Iran bypass the sanctions that have been imposed on it in recent months.

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 banking system.

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 this report.

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