JERUSALEM – In a meeting with a visiting U.S. delegation fresh off nuclear talks in Baghdad, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak and National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror expressed their government’s growing concerns over America’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran.
The Israeli officials told their guests, led by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, of the growing difference between Jerusalem and Washington over the pace and essence of the talks. Sherman maintained that President Obama was determined to maintain pressure on the Iranians in order to thwart their efforts to build an atomic device.
According to Israeli media reports, Barak and Amidror presented updated intelligence reports at the meeting. They allegedly show that Iran has already enriched enough uranium to build several atomic bombs, has begun preliminary work on developing weapons-grade plutonium, and is seeking to spark a war between Israel and Syria with the assistance of Hizbullah, Iran’s proxy.
One high-ranking Israeli official told Haaretz, “The Iranians have given up nothing at this juncture. [They are trying] to gain more time to continue their nuclear program.”
Barak, in discussing the stalled Iranian negotiations with a bipartisan group of visiting U.S. senators, said, “The recent round of talks in Baghdad proves once again that Iran is only interested in dragging its feet while attempting to deceive the world.” Regarding the chaos in Syria, Barak said, “The pictures of the children’s mutilated bodies are both shocking and disturbing. We call upon the nations of the world to unite and act immediately to stop the ongoing massacre of innocents.”
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force deputy commander, General Ismail Qa’ani, admitted earlier this week that Iran is directly involved in propping up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime. Syrian rebels attempting to topple Assad have repeatedly told UN officials and international media outlets that both Quds and Hizbullah forces have actively participated in the recent attacks against civilians in Homs and Houla.
Some battles between pro- and anti-Assad forces have recently spilled over into different parts of Lebanon, including Tripoli and Beirut.
On Sunday Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah also threatened Israel. “Lacking rivers and mountains as borders, Israel has to make do with fences, but this will not be of any help. We have missiles that can hit anywhere in Israel,” he told supporters via a video link from Bint Jbeil, site of numerous battles between Israeli and Hizbullah forces during the Second Lebanon War.
The Obama administration has reportedly briefed Prime Minister Netanyahu about a proposed U.S. plan to have Russian President Vladimir Putin forge a peaceful regime change in Syria – an arrangement Assad has shown no intention of accepting. Putin, scheduled to soon meet with Netanyahu, has provided diplomatic and military backing to the Assad regime. However, after last weekend’s massacres in the Syrian cities of Houla and Homs, the Russian government openly criticized Assad.
Israel Hayom’s senior commentator Dan Margalit rebuked America’s diplomatic efforts in the region. “In Istanbul and Baghdad they [American diplomats and others] spoke about pushing Iran to downgrade enriching uranium from 20 percent grade to 5 percent, until it was surprisingly revealed that Iran was actually enriching uranium at 27 percent,” Margalit wrote.
“Iran isn’t worried that America sees it as a country that consistently fails to tell the truth; North Korea already preceded them. So with these statistics in hand, Syria’s Bashar Assad shouldn’t be too worried about American efforts to effect regime change.”
Israeli military officials have warned the White House and Kremlin that if the Assad regime is violently overthrown, Israeli forces could be forced to launch a pre-emptive strike at elite Syrian chemical weapons warfare and missile units. It is believed that in a parting shot, Assad – with Iranian compliance – might order the transfer of large caches of unconventional munitions to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
According to the IDF and the authoritative Jane’s Defence Weekly, Syria allegedly possesses one of the world’s deadliest arsenals of VX nerve gas, which can be mounted on advanced Scud missiles and capable of hitting major Israeli cities across the country.
Steve K. Walz