When Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with US President Joe Biden in Washington recently, the two leaders said Iran was the main topic of conversation.
This American-Israeli cooperation is very important, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in an exclusive interview with Mouab.
“We have to sit behind closed doors with the American government, and first agree on a common language – what “breakthrough” means, what “threshold” means, what “nuclear weapon” means, then to make sure we have enough intelligence to know what will happen, and clarify the possibilities,” said Barak.
Since then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, the United Nations nuclear watchdog (International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA) has said Iran has stepped up its uranium enrichment and prevented international inspectors from accessing its nuclear facilities.
Iran’s nuclear program sparked a stern warning by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in his recent speech to the UN General Assembly. “Iran’s nuclear program has reached a tipping point, and so has our tolerance. Words don’t stop the centrifuge from spinning. There are people in the world who seem to see Iran’s nuclear weapons development efforts as an unavoidable reality, as a done deal, or they are tired of hearing about it. Israel does not have that privilege. We can’t be tired. Israel will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons.”
The IAEA says Iran has started enriching uranium to 60 percent, but the next stage of enrichment, up to 90 percent, will be more difficult to detect, said Ehud Barak, who is also chief of staff of the Defense Forces and Israel’s Defense Minister.
“The enrichment from 60 percent to 90 percent, which is needed for military purposes, can be done very quickly. It can be done in small isolated places, either scattered over civilian areas or even buried very deep in some old mine. The rest of the world, the IAEA in Vienna, will not be able to control or inspect it anymore,” Barak added.
Over the past few years, various news reports have said Israel has carried out sabotage attacks against Iran’s nuclear program. Recently the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces stated that the military attack plan had been “very much accelerated.” Some analysts say that Israel’s actions must be coordinated with other powerful powers.
Menashe Amir is an analyst with a particular interest in Iran. “Israel has a military option, but it’s not a good solution because Israel doesn’t have to be alone for this trip. Israel needs two things – strategic and logistical support from the United States, and political support from Europe, Britain and France, and so on.”
The election of Iran’s new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, has raised Israeli concerns about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, said David Menashri, an analyst at the Center for Iranian Studies in Tel Aviv.
“I am very concerned about imagining an Iran with such a radical ideology, with such a government regime, controlled by conservatives. The fact that Iran has this capability will change the geo-strategic situation in the region.”
Ehud Barak and other senior Israeli officials are also concerned that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, further destabilizing the volatile region. [lt/em]