WASHINGTON – An American military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities would take a “fraction of one night” to complete should US President Barack Obama choose to order one, former prime minister Ehud Barak said in Washington on Thursday.

Speaking to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Barak said such an attack would be easier for the United States than last year’s planned campaign against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons infrastructure.

“It’s a simpler operation to get rid of the [Iranian] arsenal,” Barak said.

Nevertheless, he issued a harsh condemnation of the White House, charging that Obama had changed the goal posts on what he would find acceptable from Tehran.

“The American administration changed its objective from no nuclear military Iran to no nuclear military Iran during the term of this administration,” Barak said, adding that the US “is perceived to have been weakened” over the last several years.

Barak endorsed negotiations between Iran and the international community in Vienna, while expressing skepticism that Iran had a genuine interest in a good deal. Iran benefits, he said, from a continuation of a halfstep deal, as was achieved in Geneva over the fall.

Barak was speaking in conversation with Dennis Ross, a former diplomat under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations who is now with the Washington Institute.

In the wide-ranging discussion, Barak said that international crisis management had become a “gestalt, where everything depends on everything else.”

Conflict with China over the Senkaku Islands complicates participation on Iran, he said.

“When the attention is drawn to Donetsk [in Ukraine],” he added, “there is no room for real cooperation on Syria.”

He conceded the difficulty facing the US on Syria, while commenting that Assad had “saved himself” by using chemical weapons on his own people. He was referring to the deal Assad made to rid himself of his chemical arsenal in exchange for effective immunity from US attack.

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