Barak: Iranian ships crossing Suez part of 'wider scheme'

Defense minister says that Iran wants to project assertiveness, but does not intend to use vessels to bring weaponry to Hezbollah.

Ehud Barak (photo credit: Ahikam Seri/Bloomberg)
Ehud Barak
(photo credit: Ahikam Seri/Bloomberg)
The two Iranian naval vessels crossing the Suez Canal was a show of power and part of a "wider scheme" to exert influence in the Middle East, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Thursday. The ships' crossing was the first time the Islamic Republic has sent a naval convoy through the Suez Canal in over three decades.
He added, however, that sending the naval ships through the canal does not worry him. He commented that the US and Israel both send ships through the canal, and that the crossing cannot avoid Iranian movement, "as it's a frigate and some support vessel with some cadets on it."
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Barak said that, "I don't like it, but I don't think that any one of us should be worried by it."
The defense minister commented that Iran was trying to assert their power in the region by sending ships to the Syrian port, and that the move was nothing more than them "projecting...self-confidence and certain assertiveness in the region." Despite reports that Iran may have been bringing advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Barak suggested that the focus of the trip is for Iranian cadets to visit Syria.
In regards to the Iranian nuclear threat, the defense minister said that the Iranians were "moving slower than expected," having encountered "certain hold ups along the way." Barak estimated that it would be "several years" before Iran developed a nuclear weapon.
The head of IDF Military Intelligence Maj-Gen. Aviv Kohavi expressed similar sentiments in January, when he said it would take more than two years for Iran to develop a nuclear missile. He had said that even if the Iranians could develop a nuclear bomb within a year or two, they did not currently have the technology to create a missile for delivering the bomb, a development which would take considerably more time.