FM: If Iran sanctions fail, all options on table

Russian official warns that Israel’s hard-line approach could have "catastrophic consequences" for the region.

By
February 9, 2012 21:09
4 minute read.
Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor

Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor_150. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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Israel hopes recent sanctions against Iran will get Tehran to stop its nuclear development, but if it does not, Jerusalem “is keeping all options on the table,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told 15 ambassadors to the UN Thursday in New York.

Lieberman’s comments during a meeting with the ambassadors, including eight whose countries are on the UN Security Council, came amid a steady drumbeat of bellicose comments from both Israel and Iran.

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Among those in the room was the UN envoy from Russia.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s security and disarmament department, told Interfax that Israel’s hard-line approach on Iran could have “catastrophic” results for the region.

Ulyanov was quoted by AFP as saying that “the inventions” concerning Iran’s possible development of nuclear arms “are increasing the tension and could encourage moves toward a military solution with catastrophic consequences.”

The “noise” over Iran’s nuclear intentions has “political and propaganda objectives which are far from being inoffensive,” he added.

Ulyanov’s comments came less than a week after Russia blocked a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad for killing hundreds of his own countrymen, and one Israeli diplomatic official said the two events were linked.

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“A country bending over backward to defend Syria is now making common cause with Iran, which is doing the same,” the official said, noting that Russia had “invested all its stock in Syria and Iran,” and as those countries were increasingly in trouble, Moscow was just “raising the stakes” rather than ending its investment.

“In the end it’s the same old trick,” the official said. “Blame Israel.”

Lieberman, during his meeting with the ambassadors, warned Hezbollah against creating a “provocation” on the northern border to divert attention from the situation in Syria.

“We hope this won’t happen, but are ready for that possibility,” he said.

Meanwhile, NBC news quoted US officials as confirming Iranian charges that a spate of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists was the work of an Iranian dissident group trained, financed and armed by Israel.

NBC quoted Muhammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni, as saying Israel was paying the group, known as the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, recruiting agents and managing logistical support. He said Iran’s information was based on the interrogation of an “assassin who failed to carry out an attack in late 2010.”

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office, when asked about the report, said, “We don’t comment on that sort of media speculation, which most of the time is incorrect.”

In a related development, The New York Times reported Thursday that Israel and the US were at odds over whether Iran’s crucial nuclear facilities were about to become impregnable.

The debate stems from Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s increasing use of the term “zone of immunity” to describe the point beyond which Iran’s key nuclear facilities are so fortified that a military attack on the country would become ineffective.

For the US, the “point of no return” for Iran is when its leaders make the political decision to assemble a bomb. While Israel and the US agree on the perception of Iran’s threat and, to a large extent, on how far its program has developed, there is a significant time difference between when Iran becomes “impregnable” to attack, and when its leaders make the decision to assemble a bomb.

That difference is important when it comes to how much time the stepped-up sanctions should be given, with the “zone of immunity” allowing for much less time.

According to the New York Times report, Obama administration officials said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “does not favor the phrase ‘zone of immunity.’” But one Prime Minister’s Office official, who was not willing to comment on the bulk of the report, would say only that regarding Iran, Barak and Netanyahu were “on the same page.”

In Bogotá, meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, holding a strategic dialogue with Colombian counterparts, called on Colombia to increase its oil production so that the European embargo of Iranian oil would not drive up market prices. Colombia’s oil production has skyrocketed in recent years, and it now produces almost as much oil as Algeria.

The country’s main rival in South America is Venezuela, which has close ties to Iran.

Colombia became a temporary member of the UN Security Council this year, and also heads the UN’s sanctions committee against Iran.

Following the meeting, Ayalon called Colombia Israel’s “strategic ally in Latin America, and a courageous partner in promoting world security and stability.”

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