Iran Nuclear Assessments Growing More Difficult, Israel’s Barak Says

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday said Iranian atomic actions are growing more difficult for Tel Aviv and Washington to analyze, bolstering the critical nature of addressing Tehran’s push toward nuclear bombs, Reuters reported (seeGSN, Aug. 7).

Barak issued the remarks shortly after the newspaper Haaretzdescribed a new U.S. finding — purportedly contained in a National Intelligence Estimate delivered to President Obama — that Iran had achieved major, unexpected steps in weapon-relevant atomic endeavors. The United States, Israel and a number of European nations suspect Iran is using its atomic program as cover for development of a nuclear-bomb capacity; Tehran has maintained the effort is strictly peaceful.

“There probably really is such an American intelligence report — I don’t know if it is an NIE one — making its way around senior offices (in Washington),” the top Israeli defense official said to Israel Radio.

“As far as we know it brings the American assessment much closer to ours … it makes the Iranian issue even more urgent and (shows it is) less clear and certain that we will know everything in time about their steady progress toward military nuclear capability,” Barak said (Reuters, Aug. 9).

“We and the Americans agreed not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and all options are on the table,” the Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.

Any Israeli use of force against its regional rival would require approval from a group of top Israeli government personnel, he added.

“The description in the media as if two people are sitting around and hatching attack plans is utterly ridiculous,” Barak said, referring to reports that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been driving talks on military action against Iran (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9).

“There is still no decision, we understand the gravity of the situation, we understand that we do not have all the time in the world to decide,” Haaretz quoted Barak as saying. “We are facing tough decisions … we will listen to all assessments and comments, and when we have to make decisions, we will make them, and the decision will of course come from the government” (Barak Ravid, Haaretz, Aug. 9).

Tehran could employ nuclear force should it acquire the option, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

“This is a regime that has broken every rule in the book,” Netanyahu said in remarks reported by the Post. “They very likely could use weapons of mass death.”

Tehran’s “fanatical regime” considers the annihilation of Israel to be one move toward its broader goal of achieving worldwide Islamic pre-eminence, he said.

Netanyahu said the potential repercussions of curbing Iran’s atomic progress have been subject to general discussion, but no one should “ignore the cost of not stopping Iran” (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9).

Israeli military planes could face attack for attempting to traverse Saudi territory in order to reach or return from Iran, RIA Novosti cited high-level U.S. government personnel as telling Israeli officials during a meeting in Jerusalem.

Israeli intelligence personnel have designated four possible paths for a potential airstrike against Iran, including one crossing Saudi Arabia, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper said in a Thursday report on the Saudi warning. The United States has supplied Riyadh with warplanes and advanced protective equipment, according to Israeli news reports (RIA Novosti, Aug. 9).

Pressure from Washington might not prove sufficient to avert a potential Israeli military campaign against Iran, Interfax quoted one-time Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov as saying in comments made public on Wednesday.

“The [United] States does not want this (a strike on Iran) to happen now, before the presidential election. It is restraining Israel,” Primakov told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper. “But it is necessary to understand here that there are different forces in the Israeli leadership and in the U.S. administration, and different positions exist there. It is hard to say now who will gain the upper hand.”

The former leader said a U.S. administration insider could inform Tel Aviv that “if you strike, the [United] States will support you anyway, even if it does not want to.”

Still, a military move’s intended impact would be “negligible” and it would produce “very dangerous” repercussions for the geographic area, he warned.

“Two years later, Iran will fully recover, demonstratively withdraw from the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty, and then surely create its own weapons of mass destruction,” Primakov warned (Interfax, Aug. 8).

South Africa should press Tehran to alter its disputed atomic policies, the Xinhua News Agency quoted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying on Tuesday.

“As the first country to voluntarily give up nuclear weapons, South Africa speaks with rare authority,” Clinton said. “You can most convincingly make the case that giving up nuclear weapons is a sign of strength, not weakness.”

South Africa has historically relied on Iran for roughly three-tenths of its unrefined petroleum. However, Pretoria in June halted purchases of the Iranian commodity as Washington stepped up economic pressure on nations doing oil business with Iran (Xinhua News Agency, Aug. 9).

Government and private-sector sources on Thursday said South Korean petroleum processing firms are communicating with Tehran on potentially restarting purchases of Iranian oil, Agence France-Presse reported. The European Union last month began prohibiting insurers with the 27-nation bloc from extending coverage to Iranian petroleum shipments; oil supplies to South Korea ended in the same month.

“We are still hammering out details before finalizing the deal … in a way to let Iran to take responsibility for oil tanker insurance,” a Hyundai Oilbank spokeswoman said (Agence France-Presse/AsiaOne, Aug. 9).