Israel to US: Challenge Iran to end nuclear program at once (ISRAEL HAYOM) Shlomo Cesana, Lior Yacoby, Yoni Hirsch and News Agencies 02/21/12)
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Israel delivers strongly worded message to U.S., following comments
advising Israel not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities • Defense
Minister Ehud Barak: We are responsible for our own decisions
concerning our future.
Israel on Monday demanded that the U.S. challenge Iran to immediately
put an end to its nuclear program while the U.S., for its part, urged
Israel to allow sanctions against Iran to do the job and cease
planning for a military strike.
The exchange occurred in a meeting between U.S. National Security
Adviser Tom Donilon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of
General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, one of several that U.S.
government officials have recently held with their Israeli
counterparts in ongoing discussions concerning the Iranian issue. On
his visit to Israel this week, Donilon also met with Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, who is scheduled to travel to Washington next
month where he will meet U.S. President Barack Obama on March 5,
according to a White House statement.
Israeli officials clarified that as long as Iran does not halt its
nuclear program entirely, action must be taken now to stop it from
progressing any further. “The conversation covered a broad spectrum
of topics that relate to our ties as well as a variety of issues
concerning the entire region,” Barak said after his meeting with
Donilon. Barak pointed out that Israel’s ties with the U.S. involve
those of “sovereign countries that are ultimately responsible for
their own decisions and futures.”
Israeli government officials believe Iran is using diversionary
tactics - such as agreeing to talks with Western countries - to stall
for time and allow it to advance its nuclear program. The U.S.
position is that there is still time for options - other than
military action - to run their course.
Meanwhile, Iran continues flouting the international community’s
request for greater transparency about its nuclear program and
continues to play war games. As U.N. nuclear inspectors arrived in
Iran on Sunday for talks with Iranian officials about how far the
country’s controversial nuclear program has advanced, Iran’s army
began a drill to test the defenses of its nuclear facilities against
an aerial assault. The four-day exercise - code-named “God’s
revenge” - is said to be testing advanced anti-aircraft missile
systems, as well as artillery, radar, and management and control
As International Atomic Energy Agency officials met with Iranian
officials, Iran announced that in the coming months it intended to
replace the core of a reactor in one of its nuclear facilities near
Tehran with a more advanced version. In the same statement, the
Iranian government spokesperson said that Iran continues to make
important strides in its nuclear capability.
A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the visiting
U.N. team has no plans to inspect the country’s nuclear facilities
but will only hold talks with officials in Tehran. On Monday, Iranian
radio said the U.N. team had asked to visit a military complex
outside Tehran that has been suspected as a secret weapons-making
Ramin Mehmanparast said the IAEA experts are holding discussions
Tuesday in Tehran to “accelerate” cooperation with the U.N. watchdog.
He says this cooperation is at its “best” level. The two-day IAEA
visit, which started Monday, is the second in less than a month by
the U.N. team amid growing concerns over alleged Iranian weapons
Iran also said it would take pre-emptive action against its enemies
if it felt its national interests were endangered, the deputy head of
the Islamic Republic’s armed forces was quoted by a semi-official
news agency as saying on Tuesday.
“Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger
Iran’s national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act
without waiting for their actions,” Mohammad Hejazi told Fars news
Following Iran’s announcement on Sunday that it was halting shipments
of crude oil to Britain and France, Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam
Qassemi said on Monday that the country would halt oil shipments to
other European countries if they moved forward with sanctions against
Iran. The European Union imposed an embargo on oil imports from Iran,
to start from July 1.
Qassemi warned the price of crude oil could reach $150 per barrel. On
Monday, the price-per-barrel reached a nine-month high of more than
Meanwhile, the Yomiuri newspaper in Japan, citing unidentified
sources, said Japan and the U.S. reached an agreement at talks last
week about the size of cuts to crude imports from Iran, with a formal
deal expected by the end of this month.
Avoiding sanctions is essential to protect the Japanese financial
sector’s operations abroad, but cutting oil imports could pose a risk
to Japan’s economy. Reliance on oil imports has grown since a 2011
earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima radiation crisis,
leading to most nuclear reactors at Japanese power plants being shut
“We are closely negotiating with the United States and are moving
forward toward mutual understanding, but it is not the case that we
have reached a conclusion,” Trade Minister Yukio Edano told reporters.
Iran, the biggest oil producer in OPEC after Saudi Arabia, denies
Western suspicions that its nuclear program has military goals,
saying it is for purely peaceful purposes.
At the same time that the U.S. government focuses on diplomatic
efforts and sanctions, it is also trying to persuade Israel not to
launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The New York Times
reported on Monday that Israel would not be able to successfully
strike Iran on its own, saying that “its pilots would have to fly
more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air
en route, fight off Iran’s air defenses, attack multiple underground
sites simultaneously - and use at least 100 planes.”
According to The New York Times, that assessment is supported by a
large part of the U.S. military establishment, many of whom point out
that a strike on nuclear facilities in Iran would require much more
than the surgical strike Israel carried out against Iraq’s Osirak
reactor in 1981 and the 2007 attack on a nuclear reactor in Syria
that foreign media have attributed to Israel.
The report explained the practical difficulties involved in such a
strike, and said there are “three potential routes [to reach Iran]:
to the north over Turkey, to the south over Saudi Arabia or taking a
central route across Jordan and Iraq.” It added that military experts
say the third choice - over Jordan and Iraq - would be the best path,
since Iraq has had no air defense systems in place since U.S. forces
left the country last year.
The next problem, says the article, is distance. Although the Israel
Air Force possesses F-15i and F-16i combat aircraft, they will not be
able to fly to Iran without undertaking complicated refueling
operations in midair, and it is not certain that Israel has enough
airborne refueling planes (tankers) to fulfill that task. Even if
they do have enough tankers, the Times reported, additional combat
aircraft would be required for protection during refueling.
Aside from Iranian anti-aircraft systems, The New York Times article
cites other obstacles to an aerial strike on Iran, such as the
fortified bunkers that house some of its nuclear facilities. Although
Israel does reportedly have U.S. manufactured “bunker buster” bombs,
it is unclear how far underground they can penetrate.
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