Capping a day of strident warnings by Israeli officials about the dangers posed by Iran, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that the world is increasingly ready to consider a military strike against Iran if economic sanctions do not halt Tehran’s suspect nuclear program.
Earlier on Thursday, officials gathered at a strategy conference in the posh seaside suburb of Herzliya said that Iran has already produced enough enriched uranium to eventually build four rudimentary nuclear bombs and — in what would be an explosive new twist — was even developing missiles capable of reaching the US.
In perhaps the most startling instance of saber-rattling, Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon, who heads the strategic affairs ministry and is a former commander of the military, said all of Iran’s nuclear installations were vulnerable to military strikes.
Yaalon appeared to contradict assessments of foreign experts and Israeli defense officials that it would be difficult to strike sensitive Iranian nuclear targets hidden dozens of meters below ground.
Much of the attention focused on the heightened sanctions imposed on Iran by Europe and the US.
Earlier this week, media reported that officials in Israel — all of whom spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss Iran — were concerned that the measures, while welcome, were constraining Israel in its ability to act because the world expected the effort to be given a chance.
Barak appeared to confirm this, suggesting that the sanctions needed to be given a chance to work. However, he also said there was a growing sense around the world that failure would in effect justify military action.
“There is no argument about the intolerable danger a nuclear Iran [would pose] to the future of the Middle East, the security of Israel and to the economic and security stability of the entire world,” Barak said. “Today, as opposed to in the past, there is a wide global understanding that Iran must be prevented from becoming nuclear and no option should be taken off the table ... Today as opposed to in the past, there is wide world understanding that in the event that sanctions won’t reach the intended result of stopping the military nuclear program, there will be need to consider action.”
Israel has been a leading voice in calls to curb Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, and the latest revelations could help generate further international support for moves against the Iranian regime. At the same time, there is growing international concern about a possible Israeli rogue attack on Iranian nuclear installations.
Iran denies it is trying to develop nuclear weapons, insisting it seeks nuclear power for nonmilitary uses. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that some of Iran’s alleged experiments can have no purpose other than developing nuclear weapons.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who gave the final speech at the Herzliya conference, has said it is the responsibility of Iran to prove it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.
“I believe they have not yet done so,” he said after a meeting with Israel’s prime minister in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Israeli Military Intelligence Director Major General Aviv Kochavi said Iran is undeterred.
“Iran keeps advancing its capabilities, keeps developing its very ambitious nuclear program, at the basis of which is to get nuclear power,” Kochavi said at the conference.