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Barak: No Iran Strike – Yet

Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Israel does not currently plan to pursue a military strike on Iran's nuclear program - but might in future.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 12/1/2011, 5:47 PM

Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Defense Ministry

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday told Kol Yisrael radio that Israel was not planning to strike Iran's nuclear program - yet.

"We have no intention of acting for the moment... We should not engage in war when it is not necessary, but there may come a time or another when we are forced to face tests," Barak said.

"Our position has not changed on three points: a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, we are determined to stop that, and all options are on the table," he added.

Barak said he was confident that military action against Iran would not be devastating for Israel. His comments came just one day after former Mossad chief Meir Dagan warned striking Iran would have catastrophic consequences for Israel's home front.

"War is not a picnic, but if Israel is forced to act, we won't have 50,000, 5,000 or even 500 dead, so long as people stay in their homes," Barak said.

Asked about emerging differences between Jerusalem and Washington on how to stop Iran's nuclear program, Barak stressed Israel would do what was necessary to protect itself.

"It must be understood that Israel is sovereign. The government, the army and the security services are the only ones responsible for the security and the existence of Israel," he said.

Israel and much of the international community believes Iran is seeking nuclear weapons - a charge Tehran denies. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials have consistently complained Tehran has obstructed its attempts to inspect Iran's nuclear sites under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Last month the nuclear watchdog warned it had "credible" information that Iran was carrying out "activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." According to the November 8 report, Iran has produced 4,922 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent, as well as 73.7 kilograms of uranium enriched to around 20 percent.

On Monday, Brigadier General Itai Brun, head of research for Israeli military intelligence, told Israeli lawmakers he estimated that Iran was "using 6,000 centrifuges regularly, out of 8,000 installed."

"Until today, they have managed to accumulate approximately 50 tons of low enriched uranium, and a bit less than 100 kilos of 20 percent enriched uranium," he said.

Brun said Iran would need 220 kilos of 20 percent enriched uranium if it decided on a drive for the much higher levels of enrichment necessary to produce a nuclear weapon.

Former head of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin has estimated Iran has "enough material for four to five bombs."

Divisions between Israel and the United States have led critics to accuse the Obama administration of abandoning Israel, and the White House to repeatedly issue statements saying the US is committed to defending the Jewish state.

Israeli officials, however, have taken a skeptical view of US claims it will ensure Israel's security.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey admitted on Thursday that Washington's commitment to sanctions over military action stemmed from the fact that the US did not face the same potential consequences if Iran attains nuclear weapons capability that Israel does.

For the Israelis "this is an existential threat, I think probably that it's fair to say that our expectations are different right now," Demspey said.