If the international community allows Iran to achieve nuclear status, it will immediately trigger a proliferation race in the Middle East, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday.

Speaking in an interview with the Washinton Post, Barak said "A nuclear Iran will be the end of the nonproliferation regime: Saudi Arabia will turn nuclear immediately, Turkey within several years, and probably the new Egypt will start moving to do it. Not to mention the potential of weapons-grade material leaking into the hands of terrorist groups from Iran."

Barak added: "We are living in a tough neighborhood — no mercy for the weak, no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves. We have to be able to defend ourselves."

Barak expressed pessimism about the potential of reaching a diplomatic solution to Iran's drive for nuclear capability. "We hope that we’ll wake up and there will be an agreement to end the Iranian nuclear weapons program. But we are too realistic."

Barak added that sanctions are working better than in the past, but need to be "heightened significantly." He reiterated Israel's position on what the P5+1 should demand of Iran in ongoing negotiations over the disputed nuclear program. According to the defense minister, an agreement should force Tehran to "put an end to enrichment, take all the enriched uranium out of the country, and close and dismantle the installation at Fordow."

Asked about the possibility of unilateral military action by Israel, Barak sad negotiations could not drag on for a matter of years, and added that "all options are on the table."

Barak praised the US administration for its commitment to stifling the Iranian nuclear program, saying they were providing Israel with support "despite economic pressure there," in order to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge in the region. He specifically referenced joint Israel-US cooperative efforts on missile defense programs, including the Iron Dome and the Arrow. "We are extremely thankful to this administration: It is doing more than the past to back the security of Israel."

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

Barak spoke also about Syria, slamming Assad for murdering his own citizens and calling on the international community to do more to break the deadlock in Damascus. "Bashar Assad is living proof of the paralysis that sometimes takes over the world," he said, adding that the fall of the Syrian president could breaking the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis.

Turning to the Palestinian arena, Barak said he was uncertain of whether negotiations with the Palestinian Authority would resume, but added that all of the Israeli leadership- including himself, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz- were interested in resuming the peace process. That said, he hinted that Abbas was holding up progress on the issue. "It takes two to tango," he said.

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