Barak on Iran: Diplomacy is preferred

Defense minister warns nuclear-armed Iran could more effectively sponsor terror, intimidate neighbors, but deflects rumors of military strike.

Ehud Barak 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Ehud Barak 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted that a military strike on Iran was possible when he told the BBC that diplomacy was the preferred method to halt Tehran’s nuclear program, but that no option was off the table.
A nuclear Iran “can open a major nuclear arms race in the region,” he said.
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The interview was aired Sunday, just days before the International Atomic Energy Agency was due to issue a report on Iran’s nuclear program.
Barak said a nuclear Iran would change the balance of power in the region, including the sponsorship of terror and the intimidation of its neighbors.
This comes, Barak told the BBC, as the US is moving out of the region.
“We strongly believe that sanctions are effective and could be effective if they are paralyzing enough, that diplomacy could work if there is enough unity,” he said.
Then he added, “no option should be removed from the table. The Iranian challenge is serious,” Barak said. “This is something that should be prevented from happening. We live in a tough neighborhood, no mercy for the weak, no second opportunity for those who can not defend themselves.”
His statements come in the aftermath of a week of media speculation that Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are soliciting cabinet support for a military strike against Iran. A number of ministers, including Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor, have criticized as dangerous the speculation and informational leaks regarding a military strike against Iran.
On Sunday President Shimon Peres told Army Radio the open dialogue on an Iranian military strike should be stopped.
Still at numerous meetings in Israel and abroad in recent months Peres has unfailingly issued dire warnings about Iran and its nuclear program.
He did so again when meeting with Druse leaders. He declared that Iran is not only a danger to Israel but to the whole world. But he insisted that alertness to the perils posed by Iran should not blind anyone to the possibilities for peace with the Palestinians. Peres also reiterated his call to world leaders who had pledged to prevent Iran from going ahead with its nuclear program to honor their commitment.
In radio and television interviews over the past couple of days, Peres referred to the likelihood of an attack on Iran, but did not specifically say or even hint that such a drastic measure would be an Israeli initiative.
Intelligence agencies from a number of countries that are monitoring what goes on in Iran are increasingly perturbed and are pressuring their leaders to take preventive action, said Peres.
A senior Iranian cleric on Sunday dismissed talk of a military strike by Israel as empty propaganda, taunting the Jewish state for screaming “like a cornered cat” rather than roaring like a lion.
“The recent threats of the Zionist regime against Iran are more for internal consumption for themselves and their masters who are struggling with the Wall Street movement,” said Ayatollah Mahmoud Alavi, referring to anti-capitalism protests that began in New York and have spread around the world.
“There is a difference between the roar of a lion and the scream of a cat that has been trapped in a corner,” he said. “And this threat of the Zionist regime and its master America is like the scream of a cornered cat.”
Alavi, a member of the Assembly of Experts, a body that appoints and supervises Iran’s supreme leader, said Israel would not dare attack Iran.
“If they make such a mistake they will receive a crushing response from the Islamic Republic,” he told the official IRNA news agency.
Iran says it would respond to any attack by striking US interests in the region and could close the Gulf to oil traffic, causing massive disruption to global crude supplies.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe spoke Sunday against a military strike on Iran and said France preferred to harden sanctions against the country.
Military attacks on Iran could create a “totally destabilizing” situation in the region, Juppe said.
“We can still strengthen [sanctions] to put pressure on Iran and we are going to continue along this path because a military intervention could create a totally destabilizing situation in the region,” Juppe told Europe 1 radio. “We must do everything to avoid the irreparable.”
The IAEA report is expected to give fresh evidence of research and other activities with little other application than atomic bomb-making, including studies linked to the development of an atom bomb trigger and computer modeling of a nuclear weapon.
Sources briefed on the report also say it will include information from both before and after 2003 – the year in which US spy services estimated, in a controversial 2007 assessment, that Iran had halted outright “weaponization” work.
“The primary new information is likely to be any work that Iran has engaged in after 2003... Iran is understood to have continued or restarted some research and development since then,” said Peter Crail of the Arms Control Association, a USbased advocacy group.
The sources familiar with the document said that among other things it would support allegations that Iran built a large steel container for the purpose of carrying out tests with high explosives applicable to nuclear weapons.
“This is not a country that is sitting down just doing some theoretical stuff on a computer,” a Western official said about the IAEA’s body of evidence, which is based on Western intelligence as well as the agency’s own investigations.
The report is tentatively scheduled to be submitted to IAEA member states on November 9 before a quarterly meeting the following week of the agency’s 35- nation board of governors in Vienna.
It “will be followed by a US-European Union push for harsher sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council, where Western powers will meet stiff resistance from Russia and China,” said Trita Parsi, an expert on US-Iran relations.
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