JERUSALEM – As the U.S., EU and UN restart negotiations with Iran to find a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Israel’s political and military policymakers heightened their rhetoric and increased their military preparedness this week. This strategy is meant to convince the world that Israel is prepared for any eventuality.
Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nearly month long media blitz in the U.S. and Europe, an effort to persuade leaders and the public that Iran’s new leadership was stalling for time while forging ahead with its nuclear program, Israel’s Security Cabinet took action.
On Tuesday the Security Cabinet issued a long and detailed statement to the international media, reinforcing Netanyahu’s message to the UN General Assembly and outlining Israel’s diplomatic red lines.
Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz reportedly criticized the White House for not being forceful enough with the Iranians. According to Maariv, Steinitz said that if the U.S. truly presented a “tangible” military threat to the Iranian regime, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would dismantle his country’s nuclear program.
Israel’s diplomatic strategy was supported by two displays of the Israel Air Force’s long-range capabilities. Last weekend, the IAF conducted a long-range aerial refueling and combat exercise over the central Mediterranean between Greece and Italy. Israel’s Walla! News site also reported that the IDF confirmed that “an exceptionally large combat jet exercise was held on the northern border, including over the sea.”
The IAF and IDF ground forces have beefed up their readiness if Iran attempts to use its Hizbullah proxies in Syria and Lebanon to launch an attack against Israel as a diversionary tactic.
The Security Cabinet’s statement reads as follows (abridged):
Iran has been working for over 20 years to obtain nuclear weapons capabilities despite its declared commitment to pursue only civilian nuclear energy.
During this time, Iran has repeatedly deceived the international community about its nuclear program, including its efforts to conceal enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom. Iran has also systematically defied United Nations Security Council resolutions, which call upon it to end its enrichment.
Brazenly violating these resolutions, Iran has increased the number of centrifuges from 164 in 2006 to over 18,000 today, and it has amassed during negotiations with the international community several tons of enriched uranium.
An Iran with military nuclear capabilities would threaten world peace and stability as well as the security of countries across the Middle East, including Israel, which it threatens to annihilate.
Iran continues to develop missiles of various ranges, including intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. These missiles pose a threat to the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and other countries.
As a result of Iran’s actions, the UN Security Council has adopted a series of resolutions. The most recent one, UNSC Resolution 1929 from June 2010, determined that Iran must:
1. Fully and sustainably suspend all enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water-related activity.
2. Refrain from any activity related to developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
In the resolution, the Security Council determined that Iran had breached previous UNSC resolutions.
Over the years, the international community has imposed on Iran sanctions to compel it to end its military nuclear program.
However, Iran continues to blatantly violate Security Council resolutions and to advance its military nuclear program, even as it negotiates with the P5+1 [UN Security Council permanent members – the U.S., Russia, China, England, and France – plus Germany].
Today [this past Tuesday], another round of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran will begin in Geneva.
These negotiations begin at a time when the Iranian regime is under great pressure because of the sanctions and is desperately trying to have them removed. Sanctions must not be eased when they are so close to achieving their intended purpose.
Now is an opportune moment to reach a genuine diplomatic solution that peacefully ends Iran’s nuclear weapons program. However, this opportunity can be realized only if the international community continues to put pressure on Iran and does not ease the sanctions prematurely. It would be a historic mistake not to take full advantage of the sanctions by making concessions before ensuring the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Israel will embrace a genuine diplomatic solution which would bring about the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Such a solution would require Iran to comply with Security Council resolutions and other steps which call upon it to:
• Cease all nuclear enrichment.
• Remove from its territory all the stockpiles of enriched uranium.
• Dismantle the underground facilities near Qom and Natanz, including the centrifuges inside them.
• Stop all work on the plutonium-producing heavy water reactor in Arak.