Israel says sabotage may stretch Iran atom timeline (REUTERS) By Dan Williams JERSALEM, ISRAEL 03/27/12 5:54am EDT)
Reuters News Service
Reuters News Service Articles-Index-Top
* Netanyahu deputy: Much hinges on April talks with Tehran
* Iranians see Israeli hand in past blasts, computer worms
JERUSALEM, March 27 (Reuters) - Israel on Tuesday played down the
prospect of an imminent attack on Iran, saying its arch-foe´s
controversial nuclear programme could still be set back by sanctions
Six world powers are expected to renew efforts next month to talk
Tehran into curbing its uranium enrichment, which can yield fuel for
atomic warheads as well as for civilian projects. Iran denies having
any hostile designs.
Israel, widely believed to have an atomic arsenal, sees a mortal
threat in a nuclear-armed Iran. It has caused international concern,
and worried oil markets, by hinting it could resort to military
strikes if it deems diplomacy, including mounting global sanctions,
to be at a dead end.
Moshe Yaalon, a senior deputy to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, said the mid-April talks would show "if there is a chance
that the sanctions are working or that the Iranians are continuing to
manoeuvre and advance toward a military nuclear capability".
But asked during an interview with Israel´s Army Radio if this meant
the Netanyahu government might be just weeks away from launching a
war against Iran, Yaalon demurred.
"No. Look, we have to see," he said. "The (Iranian nuclear) project
is not static -- whether that means progress, or sometimes, retreat.
All sorts of things are happening there."
"Sometimes there are explosions, sometimes there are worms there,
viruses, all kinds of things like that," Yaalon said, suggesting that
setbacks plaguing Iran over the past three years, including the
assassination of several of its scientists and the Stuxnet malware
that stymied core computer systems, could be repeated.
AN END TO ENRICHMENT?
Iran accused Israel of involvement in the past sabotage. Israel has
not responded directly to the allegation, though it says it
coordinates many of its efforts to tackle Tehran´s atomic ambitions
with Western and regional allies.
Netanyahu demanded, during a Washington visit this month, that any
diplomatic deal with Iran end its uranium enrichment and remove its
stockpiles of the fuel. Iran has ruled that out.
Speculation about a looming Israeli-Iran conflict has also raised the
question of whether Netanyahu is bluffing in a bid to intensify
pressure on Tehran by a war-wary Washington.
Many independent experts, and the senior U.S. military officer,
General Martin Dempsey, have voiced doubt about Israel´s ability to
deliver lasting damage to Iran´s distant, dispersed, and well-
The sabre-rattling by some Israelis seems at odds with the secrecy
that would normally attend a seriously planned attack.
"What we journalists hear in closed rooms is staggering," wrote Ari
Shavit, a columnist with the liberal Haaretz daily.
"The officials talking to us seem to be genuine and earnest. The
sources are top-notch and what they say is consistent with what we
know of the preparations being made by the IDF (Israel Defence
Forces). There are no blunt lies here. There is no cheap spin."
Asked on Army Radio if Israel had decided to strike Iran, Yaalon
said: "Even if it had, I would not share that with you."
Another Netanyahu deputy, Dan Meridor, said he opposed discussing the
military option in public because this inadvertently shored Iran up
"What it helps do, to my regret, is to raise the price of oil, and
this compensates for the decline in Iran´s oil production," Meridor
told Israeli television on Saturday. (Writing by Dan Williams;
Editing by Angus MacSwan) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 03/27/12)
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