Barak in US to push Iran sanctions

TAU institute: Teheran a year from nuclear bomb, if it wants.

February 24, 2010 03:29
3 minute read.
Barak fancy

Barak fancy. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)


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Defense Minister Ehud Barak left for the US on Tuesday, for talks with senior American officials that will focus on Iran.

Barak is expected to push for stiffer sanctions against Teheran. He is scheduled to meet with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior figures during his five-day visit.

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Barak’s visit is expected to be dominated by the prospect of new US-led sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Harsher sanctions appear likely to be imposed in March, unless Iran formally agrees to an offer by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in which Teheran would ship low-grade uranium abroad, where it would be processed and returned to Iran for use at a research reactor.

The proposal is backed by the US, Russia and France, and is seen as a means to deny Iran the possibility of enriching its uranium to weapons-grade levels. Iran has so far failed to accept the proposal, and announced earlier this month that it has begun enriching uranium to 20 percent.

Also on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to “chop off the hands from the arm of any attacker from any part of the world,” during a televised speech in the eastern Khorasan-e Jonubi province.

Meanwhile, a study published by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University said Teheran could be a year away from producing a nuclear weapon.

The study was co-authored by Ephraim Kam, the institute’s deputy head, who served as colonel in Military Intelligence’s Research Division, and Ephraim Asculai, who worked for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for more than 40 years.

“The study makes two main points,” Kam told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “Technically, under optimal conditions, Iran can reach the point of making an atomic bomb within a year or slightly over a year.

“Politically, however, Iran may choose a later date to do this.”

US and Israeli intelligence reports suggest that “Iran is not trying to build nuclear capabilities as hard as it can, and it will decide when it wants to break through to a weapons capability stage,” Kam said.

Should Iran opt for nuclear weapons, Kam added, “we may not know it in real time. It could break through via secret enrichment efforts. They can hide the uranium for the bomb anywhere.”

The moment that Teheran crosses the threshold to posses nuclear weapons, a military strike on its nuclear sites would lose all effectiveness, Kam said, adding, “Once they have enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb, they will reach a military milestone.”

“The evaluated time frame in which Iran can reach nuclear [weapons] capability will largely influence the planning of diplomatic attempts to stop it before it reaches this ability. It will also influence the decision on whether to act militarily against Iran,” Kam and Asculai wrote in their study.

Also on Tuesday, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, reiterated his concern over “unintended consequences” from a strike on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites.

The optimal strategy for stopping Iran involved a combination of diplomatic and economic steps, Mullen said.

During his visit to the US, Barak is expected to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Wednesday, before traveling to Washington.

He is also expected to meet with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, to discuss ideas for kick-starting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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