A key minister in the Israeli government criticized U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement on Tuesday that Washington would provide "a defense umbrella" for its allies in the Middle East in the event that Iran develops nuclear weapons.
Dan Meridor, Israel's minister for secret services, told Army Radio that the comments imply a willingness to reconcile with the eventuality of a nuclear-armed Iran.
"I heard, unenthusiastically, the Americans' statement that they will defend their allies in the event that Iran arms itself with an atomic bomb, as if they have already reconciled with this possibility, and this is a mistake," Meridor told Army Radio. "Now, we don't need to deal with the assumption that Iran will attain nuclear weapons but to prevent this."
Clinton said on Tuesday that the U.S. has a plan to prevent Iranian domination in the Middle East if it gets the nuclear bomb.
"We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment: that if the United States extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to develop the military capacity of those (allies) in the Gulf, it is unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer," Clinton said during a visit to Bangkok.
The U.S. has asked 10 uranium-rich countries to tighten their monitoring of sales of the mineral to Iran, according to a document obtained by Haaretz. The move is based on an American estimate that Iran's uranium reserves will run out by 2010. A senior American delegation will arrive in Israel next week for talks on the dialogue between Iran and Western countries, especially regarding the Iranian nuclear program.
The document was distributed by the U.S. State Department to 10 countries that produce yellowcake, a uranium concentrate used as a raw material for enriching uranium. The United States wants the countries to increase monitoring of the sale of yellowcake to Iran.
According to the document, "As a consequence of its geology, Iran's reported indigenous uranium reserves are insufficient to support its current nuclear reactor program for sustained period of time .... Calculations based on Iran's rate of uranium conversion thus far suggest that Iran will run out of yellowcake in 2010."
The document is defined as a so-called non-paper to be used in contacts with privately owned companies that produce the concentrate. It was sent to Russia, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Britain, Kazakhstan and three others countries.
UN sanctions prohibit the sale of uranium to Iran, but the United States fears that the Islamic Republic might be trying to acquire the material anyway. "Iran could soon begin, or may have already begun, to look for outside suppliers of uranium," the document says. "Extreme vigilance in dealing with Iran and its nuclear program is necessary given the requirements of the UN Security Council and the significant threat Iran presents to international peace and security."
The document also notes that given "Iran's publicly stated ambition to pursue its enrichment-related activities, we believe it critically important that the world's major uranium resource companies prevent all exports of uranium to Iran unless contained in fuel rods and for an established light-water reactor.
Beyond the responsibility to prevent nuclear proliferation that we all share and the specific requirements of the UNSC, we believe that nuclear cooperation - particularly the provision of raw nuclear materials - with Iran is a significant business and reputational risk."
It adds that "we urge companies subject to your jurisdiction not to facilitate Iran's nuclear ambitions by engaging in new business deals with Iran until all concerns regarding its intentions have been resolved and confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program has been established."
Next Wednesday, a senior U.S. delegation led by National Security Adviser James Jones will arrive in Israel. He will be accompanied by President Barack Obama's special Mideast adviser, Dennis Ross, who recently served as Clinton's special adviser on Iran.
The delegation will also include representatives of the CIA, Defense Department, Treasury and State Department. These officials were invited to Israel by National Security Advisor Uzi Arad, who will lead the Israeli side in what is said to be a continuation of talks held in Washington around three weeks ago.