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      Gabi Ashkenazi on Iranian Bomb: 'We're Still Not There'

      Former Chief of Staff says Israel is not on the brink of war with Egypt, and is better off without Assad.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 8/23/2012, 9:35 PM

      Ashkenazi as Chief of Staff (file)
      Ashkenazi as Chief of Staff (file)
      Flash 90

      The former IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, sounded a slightly calming note regarding the situation in Iran, in a meeting of senior members of the defense establishment hosted by the Council for Peace and Security.

      Ashkenazi said, with regard to Iran, that Iran does not yet possess a nuclear weapon capability: "This threat that is looming in the east and all the darkness that is gathering there… There is a feeling that someone can just a suitcase off the shelf and there will be an Iranian bomb... We are still not there."

      The recording of Ashkenazi's lecture was obtained by Ishay Fridman of daily newspaper Makor Rishon.

      "Whoever thinks that tomorrow morning we will have an Iranian bomb on our hands – we are not there yet," he repeated. However, he added, "It appears that we are on the way there."

      "We need to employ a combination of strategies: a clandestine campaign; diplomatic, political and economic sanctions, and maintenance of a credible and realistic military option," Ashkenazi suggested. "I hope that this combination will prevent Iran from reaching a bomb."

      "I think that today, too, a secret campaign should be waged. Anything that is below the level of war, the level of a strike. I keep reading in the papers about worms or scientists – and I don't know anything about that – but we should keep on doing it. True, it only buys us time, but it is important."

      Regarding Egypt, Ashkenazi estimated that "we are not on the brink of war" but that the rhetoric from Egypt will be different, from now on, from what we were used to in the past.

      Regarding Syria, he opined that Bashar Assad's downfall is a welcome option, even if he is replaced by a Sunni regime. "In the end, it improves our situation," he stated.