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Barak Hints U.S. Has Options for 'Surgical Strike' in Iran

The U.S. has plans for surgical strikes against Iran if it refuses to stop its nuclear weapons program, says Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/27/2013, 5:20 AM

Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Flash 90

The United States has plans for surgical strikes against Iran as a last-ditch measure if Tehran refuses to stop its development of a nuclear weapons capability, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday.

In a televised interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Christopher Dickey of Newsweek and The Daily Beast noted the American administration’s reluctance to involve itself in a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and asked Barak if there was any way Israel could go to war with Iran that did not drag in the United States.

“I don’t see it as a binary kind of situation: either they [the Iranians] turn nuclear or we have a fully fledged war the size of the Iraqi war or even the war in Afghanistan,” Barak replied. “What we basically say is that if worse comes to worst, there should be a readiness and an ability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant time frame and probably convince them that it won’t work because the world is determined to block them.”

He added, “We of course prefer that diplomacy will do. We of course prefer that some morning we wake up and see that the Arab Spring was translated into Farsi and jumped over the Gulf to the streets of Tehran, but you cannot build a plan on it. And we should be able to do it.”

Barak said he used to mock his American friends in the past. “I used to tell them, you know, when we are talking about surgical operations we think of a scalpel, you think of a chisel with a 10-pound hammer.”

But under the Obama administration, Barak said, “The Pentagon prepared quite sophisticated, fine, extremely fine, scalpels. So it is not an issue of a major war or a failure to block Iran. You could under a certain situation, if worse comes to worst, end up with a surgical operation.”

Barak said that much more draconian sanctions against Iran need to be applied, including a kind of “quarantine” on imports and exports, but he noted that getting such measures past the Russians and Chinese at the United Nations would be very difficult.

In November Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu indicated that by the time his next term as Prime Minister is over, Iran will not have a nuclear weapons program, stressing that if it is necessary, he will lead an independent Israeli attack against Iran, even without the support of the United States.

Last week Netanyahu warned visiting U.S. senators that “history will not forgive those who do not stop Iran's nuclear program.”

On Thursday, Obama's choice to be the next secretary of state, John Kerry, said that it is vital for the United States to confront immediate and dangerous challenges, including the threat from Iran's nuclear program.

"We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said. "And I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment, it is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance.”