The fear that the weapon will reach into the hands of terror groups also exists. That’s why sanctions against Iran are so important.
Defense Minister Barak in CNN Interview (28 Feb 2010):
DM BARAK: Iran is clearly heading toward nuclear missile capability. They’re trying to deceive and defy the whole world. They’re hoping to deter the whole world from responding to this. They have two examples in mind. One is Pakistan, which they feel is somewhat similar. And the other is North Korea. And in those two cases they were successful against sanctions and whatever.
So basically [Yukiya] Amano, the new head of the IAEA, made a quite important, courageous step by finally calling a spade a spade and told the world that people who are preparing neutron sources and implosion experiments with heavy metals, they are producing warheads for nuclear weapons, for ground-to-ground missiles that could reach the whole region, not just Israel. So we think that it’s a major challenge for the whole world.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: But you just did there they they’re not crazy enough to drop it on Israel.
BARAK: No. That doesn’t mean it’s not damaging to the whole world. I can hardly think of any conceivable world order if Iran turns nuclear. It will end any kind of non-proliferation regime. Saudi Arabia will turn nuclear in a few months.
AMANPOUR: But would it also be a problem for Israel, because you clearly have a far superior conventional capability in that region. If, as you say, you fear Iran develops a nuclear weapon, does that mean that you will lose your conventional deterrence?
BARAK: I don’t think we will lose it. We are the strongest country a thousand miles around. But I think that there will be an intensive nuclear wave in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, probably Turkey, probably Egypt will join. The countdown toward Graham Allison of Harvard’s vision of a crude nuclear device finding its way into the hands of terrorist group will start even if it takes half a generation. We are going to live in a place where hegemonic Iran will intimidate its neighbors.
AMANPOUR: Obviously there’s been much, much speculation because Israel never puts this to sleep, that you’re going to go and bomb its facilities at some point. Are you going to do that?
BARAK: I think that the time is still a time for sanctions, for diplomacy and sanctions. Sanctions should be effective. It is not about our definition, whether targeting or crippling or paralyzing or deadly. It should be effective and bring them to a point where they decide not to continue with their nuclear effort. I believe and hope that this will be the case. I think that the administration should deserve a credit, President Obama, for with all the other issues on his agenda, the heavy burden, both domestically, but mainly strategically, in the world – they find the energy, the attention to move. That is important now.
AMANPOUR: So, you have just said that you believe sanctions and the pursuit of that is the correct thing right now. But you also have said that you think the American chances of enlisting the Chinese is not great?
BARAK: It is a kind of a matter of fact observation. Sanctions will not be really effective without having the Russians, Chinese, probably the Indians –
AMANPOUR: So, how will they be effective if you don’t think they are going to get the Chinese on board?
BARAK: First of all, I think that a lot of effort is being made by the administration to make them understand it. We also, Israel, is a tiny place, but we sent two of our leading experts, Stanley Fischer, the central bank governor, and former chief of staff, who is now a minister, Moshe ("Boogie") Ya’alon, to try to present to them the facts regarding to the issue. So, probably we will help them to –
AMANPOUR: Do you and the United States agree on the types of sanctions to be put on Iran?
BARAK: I think that we both agree they should be effective.
AMANPOUR: Yes, but what does that mean? The type – they are talking about the Revolutionary Guard –
BARAK: There are many, many, types. It should start with financial transactions, with certain insurance issues, with certain limitations on how they can deal with their light distillates and so on. We feel that we should not stop until it becomes effective. And we will see it, you know, it won’t take years to see whether it works or not. I believe and hope that it can work, but we should be open enough.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Netanyahu has called for an energy embargo on Iran.
BARAK: Yes, you know, I don’t think that it is worth having an open dialogue about it in front of this camera, thus giving the Iranians early warning. It is clear it should be effective, limited in time, and we think, we recommend to all players not to remove any option from the table. And we live by what we recommend to others.
AMANPOUR: You just heard the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, basically blaming everything on you, on Israel. But let me ask you this: The U.S. National Security Advisor Jim Jones has said that the increased pressure on Iran is likely to lead to an attack on Israel. Do you agree with that? Not necessarily by Iran?
BARAK: I understand the idea. I don’t think that we are yet there. Yes, he probably intended, probably Hizbullah, or someone else, will attack us. In fact, Ahmadinejad was in Damascus two days ago, probably negotiating what should follow. He talked about a new Middle East, with no Zionists and no colonialists, meaning Israel and you as well.
And this guy, you know, happened to develop not a new Avatar – like long bows, or Agincourt-like long bows, but a nuclear weapon. So, we somehow have to take this situation seriously. I’m not sure whether we are going to face a pre-emptive attack by the Hizbullah, but anyhow, we are not interested in conflict in the north or in the east. But if it imposed upon us, we know how to respond.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you again about Iran and the constantly raised military options. You all say every option is still on the table. Your former chief of the IDF, General Halutz, has said that Israel lacks the military means for a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, that Israel should not be the flag bearer for the entire Western world. He said, I’m not just some passer-bye. I’ve had positions that give me levels of information that the general public doesn’t have. In other words, he’s saying you can’t do it alone.
BARAK: I respect General Halutz very much. And I clearly said that at this stage, we believe it is still the time for sanctions. But I repeat my recommendation to others, as well as to everyone else, not to remove any options from the table. I hope that sanctions and any other means will work, but we have to wait and see.
AMANPOUR: But again, I’ve heard that the Iranian facilities are hardened. They’re dispersed. The United States has certainly, up until know, that they will not necessarily help you, at the very least, and you wouldn’t probably be able to fly over Iran. Israel cannot do it on its own, can it?
BARAK: I don’t think that it makes sense, under the situation we’re facing, to discuss it in the open and to try to really go into details of this. I keep saying what I’ve told you. I think the time is still for diplomacy and tough sanctions might change it. We have to focus on what is on the table, not on speculating on further steps that might be taken.
AMANPOUR: OK, you said tough sanctions should be put in place for a period of time. How long?
BARAK: I cannot put a certain date ti ut, but I can say it’s a matter of we should see whether it works or not within a month, probably more, a few months, but not years.
President Peres to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors (21 Feb 2010):
"Iran presents the greatest danger for the whole world. Today the Arabs are being challenged by the Iranian desire to establish a non-Arab hegemony over the Middle East as it was for four hundred years under the Persian Empire. The Iranians use Israel as an excuse but we shall disappoint them. We don’t want to govern anybody – neither Arabs, nor Muslims…
We have to think seriously how to handle [the Iranian threat], and how to face it. I don’t think [Iran presents] a problem or danger simply against Israel. It’s against the whole world. Having imperialistic ambitions and a nuclear bomb is a very dangerous combination because a single bomb today is like a whole army in other times. The world will become ungovernable if every country in the Middle East will have a nuclear bomb without responsible people to govern it. I am afraid the world is moving too slowly to face the problem…
I think the way to handle [Iran] is to have an international coalition that does three things. First, the world must raise a moral call. People who are threatening other people are a danger and I think a voice of reason and responsibility should be raised on a moral level rather than inviting the Iranians as guests of honor. The world must call people by their names – dictators as dictators, and people who hang people as hangmen. Second, the world must impose economic sanctions. Third, the world must install advanced anti-missile defense systems to protect countries in dangerous situations."
PM Netanyahu addresses Conference of Presidents (17 Feb 2010):
During the past we there were elections in Iran. The people have spoken loud and clear. The people of Iran said, "We want freedom, we want freedom from the brutal tyranny that has been exposed for all the world to see."
In Iran, there has been the exposing of this regime, not only by its nature and the fact that they gun down demonstrators, that there is a popular movement that is quelled by violence. That I think everybody understands today. That wasn’t evident a year ago when we met, because people thought that there are populist leanings there, yes. They can amass people, they can fill up squares, but overwhelmingly, I think, people understand that the great majority of the people of Iran, given a free choice, would have ousted this regime and let me tell you: they did oust this regime. But the elections were rigged, and now the quelling of protests is rigged and the filling of squares with supporters of the government is rigged. I think the nature of this regime now is understood, not only by leaders around the world and by governments around the world, but by decent people, fair-minded people everywhere around the world.
The second thing that was exposed was that Iran is conducting a secret nuclear weapons program. That was exposed by the revelations about the secret facility in Qum, and I think people understand that you don’t build a secret facility in Qum, you don’t build centrifuges to enrich uranium to a high level and you don’t build ballistic missiles to send medical isotopes. Everybody understands that. So, whereas still a year ago, there was a difference about what is the nature of this regime and what is its intentions, I think today that has largely dissipated. And if there gaps in assessments about the advance of Iran’s nuclear programs, those have largely dissipated. Unfortunately, they’ve dissipated as the leading governments in the world have become aware and share with each other the knowledge about the promise of Iran’s military-nuclear program. As low-enriched uranium is being massed in Iran, the differences of how much there is have largely disappeared, and the gap that is left with the production of actual weapons, is also greatly reduced.
So there is greater consensus today about the understanding that this is a brutal tyranny, intending to produce the weapons of mass death. What they intend to do with these weapons, they hardly keep a secret. Obviously, the first: this is a threat to Israel, a threat to the region, a threat to the world, and it could spark off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, among the other pernicious results of such a development. There are many, many pernicious developments.
I think the camp of understanding has shrunk dramatically because of these two events: the exposing of the tyrannical nature of the Iranian regime and the fact that it is engaged in a secret and now not-so-secret program to produce nuclear weapons.
Now that we have understanding, the hour is approaching in which the international community must act to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program. It is possible to apply very forceful sanctions. Watered-down sanctions, modest sanctions will not do the job. If anything can do the job, it is tough sanctions, crippling sanctions. And such a package of sanctions that could apply to many fields should have what I think are the teeth to make this regime stop and take notice. This means curtailing the importation of refined petroleum products – gasoline – and also curtailing the export of energy products, because Iran and this regime’s budget in particular are heavily, heavily dependent on the energy sector.
These things are being discussed right now in the Security Council as we speak. I presented my view that what is required right now are crippling sanctions directed against the importation of gasoline and the export of energy from Iran. I believe this is the minimal package that will have an effect. I said this to President Medvedev in Russia, to Prime Minister Putin, to President Sarkozy of France, to Chancellor Merkel of Germany and to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. I spoke to all these leaders in the last few days, in the last week or so.
The understanding requires a decision. I think what is required are tough, crippling sanctions on the energy sector now. Other things as well, but it must be coupled with this because sanctions on the import of gas and sanctions on the export of energy from Iran has teeth, and what is required is something with a bite right now. If the international community doesn’t apply tough, biting sanctions on Iran now, when will it apply them? So there is a consensus that has emerged internationally. We’ll find out very soon if it’s a full consensus, but it’s a very broad agreement. And now we shall see if the international community at this moment of truth acts as I hope it will.
President Peres at meeting with Austrian FM Spindelegger(17 Feb 2010):
"The overriding problem today is that of Iran. It’s a shadow upon the lights of the countries in the Middle East. And if Iran will not stop developing its nuclear capacities it means that in a very short time we will have a nuclear Middle East with old conflicts and nuclear bombs. It’s the worst combination… Ahmadinejad is today a military dictator. They hang people in the streets, they shoot at the demonstrators unarmed, they support terroristic organization in full daylight, and they threaten to destroy a country. And he goes around like one of the members of the club [of responsible countries]…
A clearer, more conscious voice must come from the western countries. We cannot allow Iran to continue operating with such moral disregard. By taking so long to form a coalition, the western countries demonstrate their weakness, thereby threatening itself and all the free world."
PM Netanyahu to the Israeli press after meeting with Russian President Medvedev (15 Feb 2010):
"I believe that Russia fully understands the Iranian objective and is well aware of the point the Iranians have reached in their nuclear program. Russia is considering and discussing the issue of sanctions with other members of the Security Council. President Medvedev has listened to my position, which is that the sanctions must have teeth. In order for them to bite, they must have teeth. Diluted sanctions, soft sanctions, will simply not do the job."
PM Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting (14 Feb 2010):
Prime Minister Netanyahu informed the Cabinet that he would be leaving for Moscow this evening for meetings with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin: "I view Russia as in important power and an important friend of the State of Israel. We will discuss a range of issues, but first and foremost Iran. Israel believes that strong pressure must be applied to Iran, especially very sharp sanctions, which US Secy. of State Clinton referred to as ‘crippling sanctions’."
Deputy FM Ayalon addresses International Institute for Strategic Studies in London (8 Feb 2010):
Ayalon pointed the finger at Iran for being at the source of all the problems in the region. "If the Iranian issue is solved, the region will only be the better for it," Ayalon said. "Iran uses its nuclear ambitions as the means to create a regional hegemony."
Referring to Syria as a the gateway for Iran into the region, Ayalon said: "There are confusing and contradictory statements emanating from Damascus. However, at the end of the day we will judge Syria by its actions and not its words. Syria is dependent on Iran and provides Hizbullah with long-range missiles aimed at Israel as well as supporting and hosting ten terror organizations in Damscus. The latest heightened rhetoric with Syria is because of Iran. Only Iran benefits from heightened tension in the region to deter attention from its nuclear weapons program. It is clear that when the Iranian issue is resolved, Syria will become more amenable."
Ayalon also addressed the internal Iranian situation. "The international community should not neglect the Iranian people and call to task the Iranian regime, not just on the nuclear issue, but also on their appalling human rights record. The international community should not look the other way and support the Iranian people against the brutal regime," Ayalon said.
FM Liberman at Bar-Ilan Univeristy Business Forum (4 Feb 2010):
FM Liberman called Iran the heart of the problem: "A nuclear weapon in Iranian hands is significant. The fear that the weapon will reach into the hands of terror groups also exists. That’s why sanctions are so important. This is our last opportunity to overcome this threat. There’s no room for excuses, the world must make decisions. Russia has a particularly important position. Russia has shown responsibility and taken a balanced position. And China doesn’t want to remain isolated in the international arena, and so we must encourage Russia with a positive message to remain balanced."
PM Netanyahu at Knesset session in honor of the Prime Minister of Italy (3 Feb 2010):
Above all, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to commend you on your statements regarding the battle against the threat of a nuclear Iran. I want to repeat your statements exactly as they were made because I believe it is important that the words of a leader who is not only a friend of Israel’s, but who is also concerned for world peace, will be registered in the Knesset protocols. I quote:
"The entire international community must decide and unanimously declare – clearly and unequivocally – that it will not tolerate, as a matter of principle, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a country whose leaders have openly declared their desire to destroy Israel and who have denied both the Holocaust and the legitimacy of the existence of a Jewish national home… the tragedy of World War II and the extermination of the Jews of Europe did not begin on September 1, 1939 with the invasion of Poland. It began with the capitulation of the democratic regimes in Munich; it began with the spirit of Munich which promised ‘peace in our time’ and in fact paved the way for one of the greatest calamities in the history of mankind…"
FM Liberman at meeting with Italian PM Berlusconi (2 Feb 2010):
FM Liberman asked PM Berlusconi to use his good ties with Russia to encourage its present position of supporting sanctions against Iran, in the framework of the Security Council, and to refrain from selling arms to Iran.