It is in the world’s interest to stop Iran. It is in not only the Israeli interest, American interest, British interest or others’ interest.
FM Livni meets with the foreign press in Israel (21 Aug 2008):
We can see Iran, a state that represents this kind of extreme Islamic ideology, progressing in its aspiration to obtain nuclear weapons and trying to gain more time in its discussion with the international community. But in the meantime it has not stopped its [uranium] enrichment, and we see all the other pragmatic states in the region, Iran’s neighbors, looking at the international community. Since we live in a world where perceptions matter, I think they are trying to see whether the international community is determined enough to stop Iran, or else they can join it in the future. And this is something we should also be aware of, in the future.
The next understanding is that the time is of the essence, since the crucial day is not the day of the bomb or when they master the technology. It is just as important what we, the international community, are doing right now, in order to stop Iran. Sanctions are effective but the current sanctions are not effective enough.
Hizbullah, the long arm of Iran in Lebanon, is getting stronger. We see that the arms embargo according to Resolution 1701 is not being enforced by the Lebanese government. It is being violated by Syria and Iran so the situation in the south part of Lebanon has changed, yet Hizbullah is getting weapons…
The Gaza Strip is being controlled by Hamas, which represents this kind of extreme Islamic ideology; Hamas does not represent the national Palestinian movement or the Palestinians’ aspirations for a state of their own. It represents this extreme ideology and it is being supported by Iran by using the Philadelphia corridor and smuggling weapons through Egypt to the Gaza Strip…
About Russia and Iran, it is true that there is an understanding by the international leaders and I have spoken with most of them, including Putin and Lavrov, and everybody says that the world cannot afford to have Iran with nuclear weapons. This is an understanding; it is not as if we differ on whether the world can afford or cannot afford this. But there is a gap between this understanding and translating it, especially when it comes to United Nations Security Council resolutions.
It is important to have a consensus on each and every Security Council resolution because the message is that the entire world wants Iran to stop and the sanctions are according to international community policy and it is not just something led by the United States or the interests of Israel, or some parts of Europe, but something that the international community believes in and is willing to pay a political and an economic price to do so.
Unfortunately, the need for a consensus led to some compromises on the nature of the sanctions; some sanctions were left off the list because of the different interests of different states during the negotiations in the Security Council. This is why more sanctions are needed. They are not effective enough and we can add some more especially when it comes to energy. I do believe – and I said something about missiles to Syria and others – it is in the world’s interest to stop Iran. It is in not only the Israeli interest, American interest, British interest or others’ interest.
The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran. And Iran with nuclear weapons is part of a process that is underway. Time is of the essence. Since I believe that Russia has the best understanding of the situation, of its own interest, I do hope that Russia and other states join not only the understanding of the need to stop Iran, but join more effective sanctions in order to do so.
CNN Late Edition interview with FM Tzipi Livni (3 Aug 2008):
BLITZER: I know Israel is deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday, that "The Iranian nation, by depending on its useful experience and advantages of 30 years of resistance, does not pay any attention to such talk and will continue with its path." They’re showing absolutely no indication that they’re going to stop enriching uranium. So the question to Israel: At what point do you give up on sanctions and diplomacy and begin thinking about military action?
LIVNI: It is clear that Iran doesn’t pay attention to talks. This is a clear message to the international community to continue to with real and effective sanctions. Clearly, Iran is a threat, not only to Israel, but this is a global threat. And the international community should act accordingly.
BLITZER: Well, at what point though, assuming you continue with sanctions, how much time do you have? Yesterday, I spoke with your defense minister, Ehud Barak. And he thought that there was a window of 15 months to 36 months until the Iranians crossed what he called, "the line of no return". Do you accept that window?
LIVNI: I think that time is of the essence even more. While we are talking, Iran continues. Any kind of hesitation coming from the international community is being perceived by the Iranians as weakness. And these kinds of messages that talk doesn’t matter, need to change in the attitude of the international community. Intensive and sanctions can be effective.
Iran is a threat to its neighbors, as well, and the international community is being watched not only by Iran, but also by Iran’s neighbors. And when the international community shows hesitation, this is perceived as weakness. We live in a neighborhood in which you either beat the bully or join in. And I don’t want to Iran’s neighbors, who are part of the camp of moderates, to join Iran. So what we are doing today is of the essence and we shouldn’t wait to what we call, "the point of no return".
BLITZER: So, you’re saying that you don’t even give them 15 months, necessarily. You think it’s a more urgent matter?
BLITZER: How much time do you think Israel and for that matter, the United States, has?
LIVNI: We need to understand that we need to act today in terms of sanctions. Sanctions can be effective as long as the Iranians and the entire world understand that all the options are on the table. This is what we need to do today. We cannot postpone it. We cannot wait for the Iranians to decide whether they are willing to talk with the international community. And the message coming from the Iranians is clear. Sanctions are needed today.
BLITZER: Recently, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, on July 2nd, said, "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don’t need it to be more unstable. Opening up a third front right now would be extremely stressful on us." He was referring to the first front in Iraq, and the second front in Afghanistan. To open a third front in Iran right now, he said, would be extremely stressful on the U.S.
And I’m going to read another quote to you from the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. He says, "In my opinion, a military strike will be the worst. It will turn the Middle East to a ball of fire."
How worried are you that an Israeli military strike for example, could turn the entire region into what Dr. ElBaradei calls, a "ball of fire"?
LIVNI: The choice in the Middle East is choice between bad options. This region is the region that creates some threats, like the Iranian threat, to the entire world.
Now, let’s talk about the situation when the world is not doing what needs to be done. The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran, which places weapons of mass destruction everywhere in this region – in the hands not only of states, but also of terrorist organization. The world doesn’t want to see those who are now part of the camp of moderates becoming part of the camp of extremists. This is something that nobody can afford.
So, by waiting, we are not creating a better situation, but a worse one. And sanctions are effective only when the Iranians know that there are other options. But, let’s focus on the sanctions today.