Barak reveals conditions for Iran-West talks

Defense minister says strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities not within weeks but can also not wait years.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Israel is demanding that its allies set Iran’s complete surrender of its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent as one of the goals of the nuclear talks scheduled for mid-April.
Citing 2012 as the “year to stop Iran,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that he has held discussions with American and European officials in recent weeks with the goal of convincing them to set clear goals for the planned talks with Iran.
The talks are scheduled to begin on April 13 between Iran and representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, known as P5+1. Disagreements still exist regarding the venue although Istanbul currently appears to be acceptable to all sides.
Barak revealed what Israel’s goals are for the talks: 1) transfer of all uranium enriched to 20 percent – approximately 120 kg. – out of Iran to a third party country; 2) the transfer of the majority of the 5 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5% out of Iran, leaving just enough needed for energy purposes; 3) the closure of the Fordow enrichment facility, buried under a mountain near the city of Qom; 4) the transfer of fuel rods from a third party country to Iran for the purpose of activating the Tehran Research Reactor.
As reported Wednesday in The Jerusalem Post, assessments in the defense establishment are that a confrontation with Iran may be postponed until sometime in 2013. This is the result of the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran and are believed to be effective.
Barak said Wednesday that there was still time before a strike would be required.
“It is not needed within weeks but it is also not something that can wait a number of years,” he said in rare comments to military reporters. “The Iranians are fortifying their facilities and moving deeper underground with every month that passes.”
As a result, Barak said, it was unlikely that Iran would agree to suspend all of its enrichment activities and forfeit its uranium due to the current sanctions, no matter how effective they are.
“I do however look forward to being surprised if the talks with Iran succeed,” he said.
Israel and the US share almost all of their intelligence assessments regarding Iran and, for example, share the opinion that Iran has yet to make the decision to begin enriching uranium to higher military-grade levels and begin building a bomb.
Barak admitted, however, that there were differences between Israel and the US over his claim that Iran was moving into an “immunity zone” and that if Israel waits too long its military option might not be viable past the end of the year.
“This is part of the difference between us and the Americans,” the defense minister said.