Top Israeli officials send mixed signals on Iran (AP) Associated Press) By AMY TEIBEL and DANIEL ESTRIN NICOSIA, Cyprus 02/16/12 11:20 am ET)
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NICOSIA, Cyprus – Senior Israeli officials sent rare mixed messages
Thursday about the effectiveness of Western sanctions aimed at
pressuring Iran to suspend its nuclear research program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the sanctions imposed
on Iran, while important, haven´t yet been effective, while his
defense minister and vice premier said sanctions are strong and have
the Iranians panicking.
Israel, along with most of the West, accuse Iran of pursuing atomic
weapons — a claim Tehran denies. Israel considers a nuclear-armed
Iran to be a threat to its very existence, citing Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad´s repeated calls for Israel´s destruction and
Iran´s support for anti-Israel militant groups.
With Israel claiming that time is running out to stop the Iranians,
there are growing international concerns that the Israelis are
preparing to attack Iran. The international community fears an
Israeli strike could set off a region-wide war and roil global oil
Though eager for an international campaign to halt the Iranians,
Israel is wary of appearing to be leading the drive. Netanyahu had
previously instructed his ministers to stop the "chitchat" about Iran
to allow him to keep a uniform message.
But in a series of appearances Thursday, Israel´s top brass expressed
During a one-day trip to neighboring Cyprus, Netanyahu cited Iran´s
ceremonious TV broadcast Wednesday, which featured Ahmadinejad
touring a Tehran research reactor, as evidence of progress.
"If anybody needed a reminder that sanctions so far haven´t stopped
Iran´s nuclear program, it was the guided tour by Iran´s president of
the centrifuge halls yesterday," Netanyahu told reporters. "I hope
that sanctions work but so far they haven´t worked. We are witnessing
a regime that breaks all the rules and has absolutely no respect for
Israel has accused Iran of being behind a string of attempted attacks
this week on Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia and Thailand.
During a trip to Japan, Netanyahu´s defense minister, Ehud Barak,
played down the significance of the ceremony this week in Iran. He
told Israel Radio that the Iranians are trying to portray their
situation as "better than what it really is."
Barak dismissed Iran´s televised presentation as a "show," saying
that Iran wants to create the impression that its nuclear
capabilities are now irreversible. He said Iran is trying to make it
seem "like the point of no return is already behind them, which is
not the case."
And one of Netanyahu´s deputies, Moshe Yaalon, said the broadcast
marked a sign of panic and weakness.
"Inflation and unemployment are high. There is also disquiet that is
threatening the regime," Yaalon told Israel Radio. "We are seeing
reactions that are in some ways hysterical."
Netanyahu himself has seemed to waver on the issue of sanctions
against Iran. He has repeatedly called for tougher economic measures
and expressed hope that the strong economic front would provide a
peaceful solution to the nuclear issue.
Last month, he told The Australian newspaper that international
pressure was working and the Iranian economy was "showing clear signs
of stress." He said that for the first time, he thought Iran was
wobbling under international economic sanctions. (© 2012 The
Associated Press 02/16/12)
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