Speaking to Haaretz on Wednesday, the British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, stressed that efforts to reign in the Iranian nuclear program through sanctions have not run their course. He cited two important new developments on the Iranian issue: This week's report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which provided evidence that Iran has been working for years to develop nuclear weapons; and the reported Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
"Now both of these," said Gould, who previously served as a British diplomat in Iran, "only reinforce our determination to keep ramping up the economic pressure on the Iranian regime. And we were anyway engaged in an approach in which we, step-by-step, increase the economic cost to Iran of pursuing its nuclear program, as it is in defiance of UN resolutions. Along with a number of other countries, we have been looking for ways at the UN, and the European Union and groups of like-minded countries to do that, and now, after the IAEA report in particular, we are absolutely determined to do so."
"Economic sanctions so far have already had a bigger impact than either the skeptics thought they would or indeed the Iranian regime thought they would. Even [Iranian] President Ahmadinejad has been saying publicly in the last few weeks how much damage sanctions have caused. So firstly, don't estimate what has been done already, and the impact of it," Gould noted.
"The precedent is that under sufficient pressure, the Iranian regime has on occasion changed course," he said. Underlining the value of sanctions, the ambassador stated: "Our current approach has some way left to run, and of all the different approaches on offer, we're not taking any approach off the table. Right now we think this approach has the best chance of working.
"We won't necessarily see them [the Iranians] stressing about the impact of sanctions," Gould asserted. "That won't be played out in public. The Iranian regime will continue to be hard-line in its rhetoric and continue its approach right up to the moment where they change their mind, and this was the case in October 2003, where right up to the moment they suspended, their public approach continued to be one of 'We will never suspend our enrichment program.'"
He declined, to "insert" himself, in his words, into the debate in Israel about the wisdom of an Israeli attack on Iran.
"There is no option which is a sort of magic bullet," he cautioned. "The idea of a military option, I think, needs to be set alongside the risks of a military option, and the very real risk of major unintended consequences in Iran and regionally."
"The U.K. and Israel stay in very close touch about the threat from Iran," he noted. "I think it is very good that Israel is so alive to the threat from Iran," he also said.
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