Daily Israel Report

Barak: Israel, US Disagree on Iran Timetable

Defense Minister Ehud Barak says different strategic perspectives have led to divergent senses of urgency in Jerusalem and DC.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/22/2012, 2:37 PM

Barak and Panetta meet in Washington
Barak and Panetta meet in Washington
Reuters

Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Israel and the US disagree on what would be a realistic timetable for stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Barak reiterated Israel's concerns that Iran is trying to render nuclear program immune from attack before taking a decision on assembling atomic bombs.

Israel “cannot afford to wait" in such a situation, Barak told Israel Radio, adding in an interview Thursday, "Israel feels directly threatened by a nuclear Iran." However, Barak added, "several more months" can be given to allow sanctions and negotiations to run their course.

During this period, it would become clear “if the Iranians intend or don't intent to stop their nuclear weapons program," he said.

During the interview, Barak argued that superior US military capabilities and America’s position as a world power lead to its leaders perceiving the Iran nuclear threat differently than Jerusalem.

Barak said Israel and the U.S. agree on the final objective of preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons, but that “the difference between us and the U.S. is the perspective on timetables.”

“America has more abilities than Israel,” Barak said. “You can think of a time when Israel would be very limited in its ability to act.”

The rising specter of a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities comes ahead of renewed nuclear talks between Iran and the so-called 5+1 – the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Mohammad Javad Larijani – a key advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – has signaled Iran may be willing to halt its uranium enrichment program.

Larijani said the West should accept Iran's "peaceful nuclear program," sell Iran 20 percent enriched uranium, and provide the customary assistance nuclear nations provide to those building nuclear power plants.

In return for cooperation from the West Iran would offer "full transparency," Larijani said.

He did not say Iran would halt uranium enrichment – a key demand by Jerusalem and Washington to avoid military strikes – but observers say the stipulation that the West provide 20% enriched uranium indicates Iran is open to doing so.

Iran denies it is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and insists its nuclear program is meant for peaceful uses such as generating electricity.

However, the International Atomic Energy Association has issued two reports in recent months indicating Iran has sought – and continues to seek – nuclear technology that has solely military applications.