Israel's nuclear chief: Jerusalem can defend itself

Shaul Chorev tells IAEA Israel is not indifferent to Iran's "direct and blunt" threats to its existence.

IAEA in Vienna 370 (photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
IAEA in Vienna 370
(photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
Israel is not indifferent to “direct and blunt” Iranian threats to its existence and is “competent to deter its enemies and to defend itself,” Shaul Chorev, head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, said Wednesday.
Chorev’s comments came at the annual meeting of the 155-nation International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, where he said that Iran’s sizable enrichment of uranium and construction of a heavy water research reactor for the military production of plutonium, as well as its design and testing of components of nuclear weapons and its activities to integrate a payload onto the Shahab 3 missile, left no doubt as to the goal of Tehran’s efforts.
“Iran’s nuclear activities are conducted in violation of all relevant UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, and are carried out with impunity, as measures of the international community have no effect on Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
Chorev added that Iranian fingerprints were all over Syria, where “the Syrian regime fights for its survival at a cost of tens of thousands of lives of innocent Syrian civilians.”
He also argued against Arab calls for a nuclear-free Middle East, saying the region had long been characterized by the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by despotic regimes in violation of every legally binding international commitment and obligation.
“The concept of a region free of WMD that has never been put to test even in the most peaceful regions of the world is certainly much less applicable to the current volatile and hostile Middle East region,” he said. “Any attempt to reach this goal requires a significant transformation of regional trends and the creation of some elementary pre-conditions.”
Chorev listed three preconditions: First, that such a process be launched only when peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time; second, that the call for this zone come from within the region; and third, that it not be imposed from the outside.
Obviously, he said, these conditions do not presently exist.
He alluded to charges leveled against Israel earlier this month by Jordan’s King Abdullah II to the effect that it was blocking Jordanian efforts to build a nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes.
“With regards to Jordan’s civilian nuclear program I wish to emphasize that Israel supports the use of nuclear power by its neighbors, to meet their energy and water needs,” Chorev said. “Israel believes in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the Middle East, as long as states fully honor their international nonproliferation obligations.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, meanwhile said in a speech quoted by the AFP news agency from his official website that his country does not “accept the demands of any superpower.”
According to AFP, Khamenei gave the speech to an audience of military personnel Tuesday in the northern part of the country.
Iran, he said, “makes its decisions solely based on the interests of its people and the country, even if all of the world’s powers get angry at its decisions.” Khamenei added that Western media were playing up the degree to which sanctions were impacting on Iran, and urged his listeners not to pay any attention to their reports.
“Drawing a black and dark picture of the country’s situation is the known method of Western and Zionist media aimed at halting the Iranian nation’s path,” he said.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
One Israeli official responded by saying that the “unfortunate reality” is that despite the sanctions and strong talk from Israel and the international community, the Iranians have not been convinced that “if they continue they will face an unacceptable price.”
In a related development, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said on Wednesday that he and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had agreed to defer further nuclear talks until she consulted the six world powers she represents next week.
Jalili said his talks with Ashton late Tuesday night in Istanbul had been constructive.
“We evaluated the common points and what we could do for further cooperation and future meetings,” he told a news conference.
Jalili added that they had agreed to renew contact after Ashton meets the members of the P5+1 next week in New York.
This group, which is negotiating with Iran, is made up of the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain. Three rounds of P5+1 talks with Iran since April have made little progress.Reuters contributed to this report