Israel´s defense chiefs disagree on whether or not Iran is rational (ISRAEL HAYOM) Lilach Shoval, Eli Leon and News Agencies 04/27/12)
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak seeks to set the record straight as he
sees it after Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen Benny Gantz tells
Haaretz that Iran "is very rational" and probably won´t go the extra
mile to build a bomb.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak restated Israel´s fears of a nuclear-
armed Iran on Thursday, after Israel´s top general appeared to clash
with the government´s line by describing the Islamic republic
as "very rational" and unlikely to build a bomb.
Gantz´s stance on Iran´s intentions appeared to put him at odds with
Israel´s political leaders, who have staked out a more hardline
position. Gantz denied that was the case Thursday, saying there was
no internal disagreement over Iran´s aims.
Addressing foreign diplomats on Israel´s Independence Day, Barak said
Iranian leaders were not "rational in the Western sense of the word,
which implies the quest for status quo and the peaceful resolution of
It would border on "blindness or irresponsibility" to believe
otherwise, Barak said. He said Iran, with its religiously fuelled
calls for the Jewish state´s demise, was seeking regional hegemony
and was "undeterred by the apocalyptic."
While Barak´s speech reiterated international concerns that Iran´s
uranium enrichment program has military designs and Israel´s
readiness to attack its foe pre-emptively, some of the language was
unusually strong for Barak. A transcript circulated to the media had
key passages underlined.
Another official told Reuters that Barak wanted to "set things
straight" after Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen.
Benny Gantz said in a newspaper interview this week that Iran was
preparing components of a bomb but was unlikely to "go the extra
mile" of assembling it, given the likely global backlash. Barak´s
speech did not mention Gantz specifically.
"I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people,"
Gantz told Haaretz, the liberal daily, on Wednesday.
In lobbying world powers to stiffen sanctions designed to curb Iran´s
uranium enrichment, Israel has long appealed to their worries about
Middle East destabilization and oil shock.
This has entailed warning that an Iranian bomb would embolden
Islamist militants, spark arms races, and rattle energy markets. It
has also entailed hinting that Israel -- assumed to have the region´s
only atomic arsenal -- could go to war to thwart what it regards as a
mortal threat should it deem that foreign diplomacy with Tehran is at
a dead end.
Six world powers revived negotiations with Iran in Istanbul last
month and are due to resume them in Baghdad on May 23.
Barak was pessimistic about the talks, saying Iran was buying time to
dig in behind defenses that would allow its nuclear facilities to
fend off aerial attack.
"The sanctions today are harsher that in the past," he said. "But the
truth must be told. The chance that, at this level of pressure, Iran
will meet the international demand to stop the program irrevocably --
that chance appears to be low."
During Israel´s Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was "feverishly working to develop
atomic weapons" to use against his country. Speaking on CNN on
Tuesday, Netanyahu said he would not want to bet "the security of the
world on Iran´s rational behavior." A "militant Islamic regime," he
said, "can put their ideology before their survival."
The portrayal of Iran as irrational -- willing to attack Israel with
a nuclear weapon even if it means inviting catastrophic retaliation
in kind -- could bolster a case for pre-emptive bombing to take out
its atomic facilities.
The U.S. has also not ruled out military action as a last resort. But
many allies of Washington, and even some senior U.S. officials, fear
such an attack could ignite a broader war while only delaying Iran´s
Gantz´s assessment appeared to be in step with the view of his U.S.
counterpart, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who said in a CNN interview in
February that he believed Iran was a "rational actor" and it would be
premature to take military action against it.
"Iran with nuclear military capability will start an arms race in the
Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and even the new Egypt will be
forced to join the race," Barak said Thursday at a conference at the
Air Force Center in Herzliya.
"A nuclear Iran will work to support Hezbollah and Hamas, and will
sow terror throughout the world," Barak warned.
On the U.S.’s approach, Barak said, "The U.S. government understands
very well that Israel has a different take on the issue and the risks
involved for Israel. The government understands that Israel must be
able to defend itself on its own."
One day after his interview with Haaretz, Gantz also addressed
Israel´s willingness to defend itself, telling The Associated Press
on Thursday, "The military force is ready. Not only our forces, but
other forces as well. We all hope that there will be no necessity to
use this force, but we are absolutely sure of its existence."
Gantz did not mention which countries would be willing to intervene
directly in Iran, but his statement underlined the support Israel is
receiving for a possible military operation against the Islamic
Republic. Gantz emphasized that he is not speaking in the name of any
President Shimon Peres echoed Gantz´s comments. In an interview
Thursday with Israeli Channel 2 TV, Peres said, "We are not alone on
The president dismissed claims that Israel faces an existential
threat. "We have overcome, I believe, more difficult situations," he
According to French news agency AFP, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon
Panetta said on Thursday that he hoped Gantz´s assessment of
Iran´s “rational” leadership was correct.
"I would hope [Gantz is] correct and he knows something more than I
do," Panetta said during a visit to Chile, according to AFP. "I do
not have any specific information that indicates [the Iranians] have
made any decision one way or another on whether to build a nuclear
weapon. I would like to hope that because of the leadership of the
United States, the international community and the leadership of
Israel, they can make the right decision."
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