David Blair – Telegraph.co.uk Oct 30, 2012
An immediate crisis was avoided in the summer when Iran quietly chose to use over a third of its medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes, delaying the moment when it could have built a nuclear bomb. Without this decision, Mr Barak told The Daily Telegraph, the situation would “probably” have peaked before the US presidential election.
In the event, Iran delayed the “moment of truth” by “eight to 10 months”, but Mr Barak predicted that sanctions and diplomacy would still fail to resolve the stand-off. If so, he said that Israel and its allies would probably face the decision over whether to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2013.
Israel reserved the right to act alone, added Mr Barak, who stated bluntly that any “operation against Iran” would be less dangerous “now” than when the country had crossed the nuclear threshold.
Mr Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israeli history, became defence minister five years ago with one driving preoccupation. His central task – indeed what he views as his historic responsibility – is to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran from threatening Israel and casting a shadow over the world.
With every passing month, Mr Barak believes that Iran is progressing steadily towards its goal. In his London hotel room, the minister laid out how, on his watch, Tehran’s stockpile of enriched uranium had grown from 850kg to 6.8 tons.
His gnawing concern is that Tehran will fortify its nuclear plants, particularly the enrichment facility dug into a mountainside at Fordow, to the point where they become invulnerable to the striking power of Israel’s air force. If Iran reaches this “zone of immunity”, Israel would lose its ability to deal independently with a crucial threat, forcing the country to trust the rest of the world and break the principle of self-reliance that underlies its very foundation.
Earlier this year, however, Iran delayed the arrival of that moment. Tehran has amassed 189kg of uranium enriched to 20 per cent purity, a vital step towards weapons-grade material. In August, the country’s experts took 38 per cent of this stockpile and converted it into fuel rods for a civilian research reactor, thus putting off the moment when they would be able to make uranium of sufficient purity for a nuclear bomb.
Mr Barak said this decision “allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months”. As for why Iran had drawn back, the minister said: “There could be at least three explanations. One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer. It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time. It could be a way of telling the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] ‘oh we comply with our commitments’.”
Mr Barak added: “Maybe it’s a combination of all these three elements. I cannot tell you for sure.”
But this decision had probably avoided a crisis. Asked whether the critical moment would otherwise have arrived “about now”, Mr Barak replied simply: “Probably yes.”
Yet the minister stressed how Iran’s move was not a genuine change of heart…
Comment – Oct 31, 2012
There is absolutely no evidence to support Ehud Barak’s claims. They may simply be a face saving ploy after Israel made so many threats about “all options” being open in dealing with Iran and then failed to act on them.
It may also be that Israeli hawks now recognise that they cannot launch a unilateral strike on Iran.
Despite Barak’s bluster about the risk Israel faces in dealing “independently with a crucial threat”, the fact is that it has already lost that ability with Iran. Quite simply the Islamic Republic has become too powerful for Israel’s military to deal with on its own.
It needs help, which is why Netanyahu is currently visiting France to drum up support for some sort of international coalition against Iran.
Whether he will get what he wants remains to be seen but increasingly it looks like time is running out for Israel’s hawks.
The days of Israel’s regional military dominance are drawing to a close. As former CIA officer Phillip Giraldi has pointed out:
“…the frequently repeated threat by the Israeli leadership to attack Iran is not a serious plan to take out Iran’s nuclear sites. It is more likely a long running disinformation operation to somehow convince the United States to do the job or a deliberate conditioning of the Israeli and US publics to be supportive if some incident can be arranged to trigger an armed conflict…”