Israel watched the developments at the IAEA in Vienna on Thursday very closely, yet was unable to convince the world to implement crippling sanctions on Iran that would convince it to jettison its military nuclear program.
Berlin still rejects military option against Iran
Iran trains Gazans to operate anti-tank missiles
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in an interview in the morning from Canada with Israel Radio, said Jerusalem was engaged in an “intensive world struggle to enlist world leaders” to support sanctions.
“Our goal is to ensure that as a result of the recent IAEA report there are practical actions and steps taken to stop Iran.”
That report, issued last week, said Iran was working to develop a nuclear-weapon design and was conducting extensive research and tests for those weapons.
On Thursday, a resolution was agreed upon in Vienna by the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, to slam Iran for its defiance, but stopped short of sending the matter back to the UN Security Council for another round of sanctions. The resolution is expected to be passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meeting on Friday.
Barak said that Israel should not adopt a policy of “whining and fear and saying that they are going to do all kinds of things to me, but rather Israel must make clear that it understands the situation very well, and that what is being discussed is a challenge to the whole world because it threatens the whole world.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon picked up on the universality of the threat during a speech Thursday at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, saying Tehran’s fingerprints can be seen in every area of conflict in the region.
“The significance of an Iran with nuclear weapons capability is that it could create nuclear chaos in the Middle East, and lead to the use of the nuclear umbrella to encourage terrorism and irredentism, and the transfer of a dirty bomb to Manhattan and Europe,” he said.
“It is forbidden for that nonconventional regime to obtain nonconventional weapons, and one way or another Iran has to be prevented from acquiring a military nuclear capability,” Ya’alon said. “The challenge is not only on our doorstep, and it is before the whole free world, led by the US.”
Ya’alon said these were “critical hours” in determining where the world would go with its Iranian policy. “Our assessment is that it is possible to stop the military nuclear project in Iran if all will cooperate and the Iranians will be faced with the following dilemma: nuclear weapons or survival.
Those making the decisions in Iran were still not convinced of the West’s determination to stop it, he said.
National Security Council head Ya’acov Amidror, speaking at the same conference, came out against former security officials who in recent months have spoken out against military action against Iran, saying they were trying “to educate” the prime minister, rather than to give advice.
While he mentioned no names, former Mossad head Meir Dagan, former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin have all come out publicly in recent months against military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Amidror said it was “arrogant” for them to try to “educate the decision-makers, rather than realizing that people with another worldview were elected.” He said they were “confused” in thinking that they had a better understanding than those with a differing view and ideology.
“So I say, if they think they have a better worldview, they should go to elections and then there will be a chance that they will make the decisions the next time,” Amidror said.
Barak, meanwhile, warned in a US television interview on Wednesday that if Iran succeeded in developing a nuclear weapon, a Middle East arms race would ensue, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt eventually seeking nuclear weapons as well.
Speaking in an interview with US broadcaster Charlie Rose, Barak also said that if he were in Iran’s place – a country seeing itself as the descendants of a 4,000-year-old civilization – he would “probably” want nuclear weapons.
“They look around and see that the Indians are nuclear, the Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear, Korea, not to mention the Russians. They look westward and see Saddam tried it, Bashar Assad tried it, Gaddafi tired it, Israel allegedly has it. But the Middle East with a nuclear Iran is a totally different place.”
Questioned about the remarks later on Thursday, Barak denied empathizing with the Iranians and said that in the PBS interview he had argued Iran that threatened Middle East stability and safeguards against the spread of nuclear weaponry.
Challenged on Israel Radio and Army Radio, Barak denied that his response to Rose’s question had been inappropriate for a defense minister representing Israel.
However, commentators likened Barak’s PBS comment to his assertion, while preparing a successful run for the premiership in 1998, that if he were a Palestinian, he would probably have joined a terrorist group. At the time, Barak denied allegations of having justified terrorism.Reuters contributed to this report.