Defense Minister Ehud Barak – in Washington to meet with American officials ahead of the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 – said Iranian supreme leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei could not be trusted to halt Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
"I don't buy it so easily," Barak told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday when she asked about Khamenei's recent fatwa [religious decree] that Iran would not acquire or develop nuclear weapons.
"It -- it is the same Khamenei who said just a year ago he scorned Qadaffi for caving so easily to pressure, to give up his nuclear military program," Barak said "...and he [Khamenei] points to where he [Qadaffi] is now."
"And, have you heard the term Taqia, which means in Islam, especially in Shia Islam, a kind of permission from Heaven for the leader to lie and mislead others as long as it is to achiece the objectives of the movement, the group, the tribe, or the nation," Barak said.
"So I don't buy it," he said. "I follow the facts on the ground. Enrichment continues. They got a a pause of five months... five weeks until the next gathering in Baghdad ..everything is still working."
During the interview Barak also rejected the impact Khamenei's fatwa appears to have had on American pundits and decision makers, saying it is superfluous in terms practical action.
"Oh, there... there's no need for a fatwa if they stop enriching for 20%, if they start bringing it out of the country to a friendly mutually agreed state, the 20% enriched uranium, and 3.5% enriched uranium beyond a few hundred kilograms which is not enough for a single device..." Barak said.
"...and, decommission the installation in Qom, and put the whole activity under the tight inspection protocol of the IAEA And answer all the questions that have been raised by the IAEA over the last years about the military activities in regard to nuclear weapons.
"Once they do this, it means they gave up the military nuclear program," Barak explained.
He also rejected Amanpour's assertion that the Obama administration was not convinced Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons technology.
"I know. I'm talking to American intelligence. I talk to American leaders. There is no difference in the assessment of this danger," Barak said.
"It's true that probably Khamenei has not given orders to start building a [nuclear] weapon, but why he is doing this?" Barak asked rhetorically. "Because he understands that if he starts to break the IAEA [rules] and starts to actually build a weapon, he might find himself faced with an American response."
Or "an Israeli response... in a way that might damage him. But that's the only reason why he did not give the order. But they are clearly heading toward this objective.
Barak also responded sharply when Amanpour pressed him on the likelihood of an Israeli strike, and what form it might take.
"Look, Christiane, I assume you understand that I do not like the kind of flood of descriptions and speculations about Israeli attacks on Iran," Barak said.
"I think that it should be -- remain behind closed doors as a part of a -- a -- a vague understanding that there is a big stick in the background, and when we say, and the Americans say, all options are on the table we mean it. And that might suffice.
"I don't think that it will help in any -- any tangible manner to convince the Iranians by going into speculations about how such an American or Israeli strike might look like or when it might take place..."
Barak became even more incredulous when Amanpour tried to press him for details citing leaks to Israel's press.
"You don't -- you don't seriously expect me to…" Barak said, shaking his head.
Later in the interview Barak told Amanpour he would not speculate on whether Jerusalem would give Washington a heads up if Israel launched a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"You know, we don't -- we don't take a decision as of now, not because it -- it's something that we are contemplating. We have a very open kind of frank discussion of these issues with the Americans," he insisted.