Official says stepped-up sanctions will get Teheran to rethink nuclear program.
By HERB KEINON
Israeli officials took issue on Wednesday with the doomsday outlook on Iran that former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton articulated to The Jerusalem Post a day earlier, saying Jerusalem believes a combination of diplomatic pressure and stepped-up sanctions may get Teheran to rethink its nuclear program.
"We believe that the integration of concrete financial measures and UN sanctions can bring the Iranians to a tactical decision not to move forward with their nuclear program," one government official involved in the issue said.
"This, of course, will require continued determination and an uncompromising approach on part of the international community," he said. "Bolton's comments reflect his belief that the international community is incapable of this. We are cautiously optimistic."
Bolton, in his interview with the Post, said that "diplomacy and sanctions have failed."
He said two options remained for stopping Iran: overthrowing the regime from within - he said it might be too late for this - or "a last-resort use of force."
"We have fiddled away four years, in which Europe tried to persuade Iran to give up voluntarily," he said. "Iran in those four years mastered uranium conversion from solid to gas, and now enrichment to weapons grade... We lost four years to feckless European diplomacy and our options are very limited."
While expressing a great deal of esteem for Bolton's "proactive" view of how nuclear proliferation issues should be handled, and saying that he agreed with the gist of Bolton's argument that a lot of time has been wasted, the Israeli official said, "We part ways on his view of the effectiveness of political, diplomatic and financial steps."
The official said Bolton was "too categorical."
"It is possible that his comments were meant to expedite the process," the official said. "We would all like to see more aggressive diplomacy."
But, the official said, there was no doubt that Iranian financial institutions, and now people on the street, were feeling the "heat" from the various sanctions and financial steps that have been taken.
Another government official dismissed Bolton's remarks by saying he was the US's "Avigdor Lieberman," referring to the strategic affairs minister from Israel Beiteinu.
"I don't think he is more concerned than we are," the official said. "We just don't believe we are on the verge of Gog and Magog. We do not believe we have reached the point where you can say that the sanctions are not effective."
Bolton also harshly criticized the Bush administration, saying it did not recognize the urgency of the situation and still held the misguided notion that sanctions could work.
At the end of the day, the government official said, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was satisfied with the way US President George W. Bush was dealing with the problem. "Bolton said that he doesn't think sanctions are effective. Okay, that's his opinion," the official said. "We disagree."
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