'4-8 weeks left for diplomacy on Iran'

Deputy FM says China could replace Iran with energy suppliers like Saudi Arabia.

By
March 9, 2010 03:28
3 minute read.
Ahmadinejad visits of the Natanz Uranium Enrichmen

Ahmadinejad visits Natanz 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Four to eight weeks remain to test the option of diplomatic engagement as means of stopping Iran’s nuclear program before sanctions will likely be imposed, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told an audience of foreign military officers and government officials in Herzliya on Monday.

Speaking to dozens of participants in a terrorism and security program run by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Ayalon said the “time is not yet lost” to stem Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but added that “it is of the essence.”

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During a question and answer session at the Interdisciplinary Center’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Ayalon warned that Iran could try to sabotage sanctions by inflating international oil prices and raising energy costs for China, which is dependent on Iranian crude oil, and which is a permanent member of the UN security council. At the same time, he added, alternative energy providers to China, like Saudi Arabia, were available.

“The only way to stop Iran is through a unified diplomatic position,” Ayalon said. “Iran is a big and vulnerable country, that will use psychological warfare and [the tactic of] divide and conquer. Calling their bluff is the only way,” he added.

During his speech, Ayalon said Iran “is the source of instability in the Middle East. For Iran, the nuclear program is not a means but an end.”

Addressing attempts by the pro-Palestinian lobby abroad to have senior Israeli army figures and politicians arrested on war crimes charges, Ayalon said, “Terrorism has become sophisticated. It is trying to gain victory by exploiting the legal system. International law is suitable for wars between armies, not for combat between an army and a terrorist organization hiding within a [civilian] population. To win, the legal system must be configured to match the new type of warfare.”

Former IDF chief of staff and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon told the audience of two main terrorist fronts, one led by Sunni al-Qaida and the second managed by Shi’ite Iran, which included Hizbullah and Hamas.

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While the US and its allies were the targets of the former entity, Israel was the main target of the latter, Ya’alon said.

He argued that the Iranian-backed axis had access to more weapons and resources than al-Qaida due to the existence of two state sponsors of terrorism in the coalition – Iran and Syria.

Ya’alon said that any future peace agreement with the Palestinians would have to be based on an insistence on an end to terrorism and indoctrination to hatred among schoolchildren.

“Without these changes, any peace will be a temporary cease-fire,” he added.

Ya’alon described the Goldstone Report as “the most clear example of a new blood libel whose purpose is to deprive Israel from defending itself.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, former CIA agent Dr. Jay Le Beau, trip leader and instructor of the Marshall Center, addressed the differences in perception of the Iranian threat among western security circles.

“I would argue that the US views Iran differently than a lot of European friends and colleagues, primarily due to a history that is particular to us. American security officials... regard Iran as having a long history of rogue state behavior. That was particularly the case at the start of the Islamic Revolution, because it was American hostages who were held and mistreated for a long period of time,” Le Beau said.

“European countries by and large, while surely objecting [to Iran’s conduct], did not have it directed at them. I would argue that their view is fundamentally different,” he added.

Le Beau described efforts by US President Barack Obama to engage Iran diplomatically as “prudent,” but added, “today, a lot of observers see this has not demonstrated results. Iran seems to be impervious to any sort of approach.”

Le Beau, who served in the CIA for 26 years as a clandestine service officer, spent most of his service time outside of the US. He is leading a five week program for more than 80 students from around the world, including Israel, comprised of intelligence officers and government members which includes a one-week visit to Israel in this year’s course, and four weeks of study at the Marshall Center’s campus in Garmisch, Germany.

“We believe our program helps create a global network of practitioners who know each other and who have learned of each other’s solutions,” he said.

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