Ya'alon: Sanctions crippling Iran regime, now not the time to let up

Defense minister: Easing sanctions would be "historic mistake."

Ya'alon at General Assembly 370 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)
Ya'alon at General Assembly 370
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)
As Iran agreed to allow United Nations inspectors into several nuclear sites, and the British government re-established diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic, Israel’s defense minister warned that the international community is on the verge of a “historic mistake” if it eases the sanctions currently in-place against Iran.
“We believe that the regime in Tehran should reach the dilemma of whether to go on with the (nuclear) project or to survive as a regime,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in a speech to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Jerusalem. “We were just about to reach that point with economic sanctions.”
Ya’alon warned that if the international community does act to reduce or discontinue some of the measures as it appears to be poised to do, it will have the effect of taking pressure off of the Iranian regime, allowing them to proceed with development of nuclear weapons with impunity.
 “We see it happening in front of our eyes -- we have lost the momentum of the sanctions,” an impassioned Ya’alon said. “We already see the stock market is rising, the ratio of the rial (Iranian currency) to the dollar has improved. The Chinese have also approached the Iranians to renew contracts that they lost [because of sanctions] in 2010.”
Ya’alon warned that as long as Iran retains its ability to enrich uranium, it can quickly restart its nuclear program.
“If they have the capability to enrich uranium at all, they can enrich it from 3.5% to 90 % in a couple of months, that’s it,” he said. “If they freeze enrichment, let’s keep the current sanctions active. If we reach a comprehensive agreement in which they give up all the centrifuges and enrichment capability, this is the point at which sanctions might be eased -- not a minute before.”
Ya’alon was introduced at the conference by Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, a former justice minister, who warned against what he called “Rouhani’s charm offensive” and said that since Rouhani took office, there have been 100 executions in Iran, a sharp increase over the number carried out by under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Half of those executions, he said, took place since October 26, while the international community was actively engaged in negotiations with Iran.
“Iran has engaged in a ‘3-D’ strategy – denial, deception, and delay,” Cotler said. “What we are witnessing in Khamenei’s Iran is a toxic conversion of the nuclear threat, incitement, the terrorist threat and massive domestic repression.”
He also accused Iran of having repeatedly committed crimes of genocide.
Noting that the next meeting between the Western powers and Iran is scheduled for November 20, Ya’alon urged the international community to maintain pressure on Iran. He also said that Israel can and will defend itself in the face of the Iranian threat.
Ya’alon laid out what he called “the demise of the nation-state in the Middle East,” referring to entities that were based on artificial borders. The defense minister said that he predicts “chronic instability in the region,” although he cited some improvements in terms of Egypt’s willingness to crack down on weapons smuggling in the Sinai Peninsula.
He also said that Israel had achieved “deterrence” against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Some 120,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war.
When it came to the Palestinian issue, Ya’alon said that he had originally supported the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, but that he has since become disillusioned.
“Once I became the head of intelligence, I realized that neither (Yassir) Arafat then, nor Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) now, are ready to recognize our right to exist as a Jewish state,” Ya’alon said. “I realized there is no partner.”
In an apparent reference to the Obama administration, Ya’alon said that “many” believe that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is “territorial” and it could be settled through territorial compromise.
“This is a tremendous mistake,” Ya’alon said. “The core of the conflict is [the Palestinians’] refusal to recognize our right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people.”
Cotler told The Media Line that he, too, is not optimistic about the chances that the Palestinian Authority will put a halt to officially-sanctioned incitement and recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.