Israel Would Strik Iran To Gain A Few Years Oren Says

Israel Would Strik Iran to Gain a Few Years, Oren Says
By Tony Capaccio and Nicole Gaouette

Israel would be willing to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, even if doing so only delayed its ability to produce nuclear weapons for a few years, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said.
“One, two, three, four years are a long time in the Middle East — look what’s happened in the last year” in terms of political change, Oren said today at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington. “In our neighborhood, those are the rules of the game.”
Israeli leaders have stressed this month that time is running out for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear program that Israel regards as an existential threat.
“Diplomacy hasn’t succeeded,” Oren, 57, said today. “We’ve come to a very critical juncture where important decisions do have to be made.”
While Israeli leaders repeatedly have said they may strike Iran’s facilities, the words are now being accompanied by civil- defense measures, including a new system that uses text messages to alert the public to missile attacks, wider distri-bution of gas masks and the appointment of a new Home Front Defense minister.
Iran may present the most dangerous in an array of threats Israel faces, Oren said, describing them as unprecedented in the country’s 64 years. The Arab Spring has roiled neighbors Egypt and Syria, the Sinai Peninsula is becoming a magnet for militant groups and terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens and property are rising around the world, Oren said.
Syrian Peril
Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons are a grave concern to Israel amid the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, Oren said. “The situation in Syria is highly fluid, highly flammable,” he said, so much so that Israel may have to deal with its northern neighbor before any confrontation with Iran. “If you had to assign a clock to” Syria, Oren said, ’’that clock is ticking.’’
The U.S. and European allies share Israel’s assessment that Iran is moving closer to being able to make nuclear weapons, while Iran says its program is for civilian power and medical use.
U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference yesterday that an Israeli strike on Iran “could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” based on his review of Israel’s military arsenal.
Such assessments aren’t relevant, Oren said. “That, on the basis of our previous experience, is not an argument against” a strike, Oren said. “In the past, we have operated on the assumption that we can only gain a delay.”
‘Progressing Apace’
When Israel struck at an Iraq reactor in 1981, the military assumption was “we would gain a delay of between one and two years on that program,” Oren said. “To this day, Iraq does not have a nuclear weapon.”
While “no country has a greater stake in resolving this diplomatically” than Israel, Oren said, “Iranians show no signs of flexibility in negotiations” with the U.S. and other countries over its program.
Instead, Iran’s nuclear program is “progressing apace,” Oren said, both in the growth of stockpiles of enriched uranium and in efforts to protect operations in underground facilities that take the program beyond the reach of “bunker buster” bombs. The Iranian enrichment operations are monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency to prevent diversion to bomb use.
“An Iranian nuclear weapon is an existential threat to Israel,” Oren said. “We don’t just say it. They say it as well. They confirm it.”
Plots, Threats
The threat has been personal, the ambassador said today. A thwarted 2011 Iranian plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington also included plans to kill Oren and others by bom-bing the Israeli embassy, he said.
Israeli intelligence suggests that, for now, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni doesn’t think the threat of military action is credible, Oren said. Given that, he said Israel wants to see “truly crippling sanctions” and a “credible military threat” against Iran.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported Aug. 10 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering a strike before the U.S. presidential election. Oren said the Nov. 6 election isn’t a consideration in Israeli decision-making.
“The issue is not the American elections,” he said in an interview today with Bloomberg Television. “The issue is the degree to which the Iranian program has reached a critical point where they can begin to put together nuclear weapons.”
U.S. Relationship
At the Bloomberg Government session, Oren said that “fundamentally” Israel’s relationship with the United States hasn’t changed under the Obama administration.
“Every administration brings a certain empha-sis, but there is also the continuing traditions and themes — and that is a very close strategic alliance,” he said. Additionally, Oren said his nation is “rapidly becoming a vital American commercial interest, something that was un-thinkable 40, 50 years ago.”
Bloomberg News

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