Netanyahu: Credible Military Option Needed Against Nuclear Iran

Prime Minister tells cabinet 'now is the time to intensify pressure' over Iran's nuclear program, as world powers prepare to meet in Brussels to debate opening up direct talks with Tehran.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the need to "intensify" pressure and prepare a "credible military option" against Iran over its nuclear program was more important than ever, as world powers prepared to meet in Brussels mid-week to deliberate the possibility of renewing talks with Tehran.

"Now, more than ever, given Iranian progress, it’s important to intensify the economic sanctions and present a credible military option against Iran” to spur it to drop its nuclear program, Netanyahu told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

“A month has passed since the Iranian presidential elections and Iran continues to surge forward quickly toward developing its nuclear military capability,” said Netanyahu. “Iran is expanding and refining its enrichment process and developing a plutonium reactor at the same time.”

Netanyahu noted that Israel is determined to stand by its demands on the Iranian issue, which, he said, “have to be the demands of the international community.” He also said that Iran must stop all uranium enrichment, remove all enriched materials from within its borders and close the illegal enrichment facility at Qom.

The P5+1 countries will be meeting in Brussels on Tuesday; talks on Tehran’s nuclear policy are set to resume in September.

U.S. diplomatic sources told Haaretz in a report published earlier Sunday that President Barack Obama’s administration has assured Israeli officials that the United States will not ease pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear program following the election of Iranian President Hassan Rohani.

The U.S. assurances were conveyed during a series of consultations between American officials and Netanyahu’s aides in Jerusalem following Rohani’s election.

Senior U.S. officials involved in the matter told Haaretz that the United States made clear to Israel that although it sees Rohani’s victory as a positive development, it will not ease the pressure on Iran unless Iran takes steps to demonstrate a “change in attitude.”

“The Israelis are afraid that because Rohani looks friendlier toward the West, the pressure on Iran will go down,” an American official said.

“It’s legitimate to be concerned, but we have told the Israelis we intend to judge the Iranians according to their actions and not according to their words. We need to see a meaningful change in the Iranian attitude,” he said.

The officials, who spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the United States informed Israel that it in fact intends to step up the pressure on Tehran. Officials cited as an example the new U.S. sanctions on trade with the Iranian currency that came into effect at the beginning of July. They added that the tough sanctions again Iran have caused serious damage to its economy and in fact contributed to Rohani’s election.

“We still have to see if Rohani is serious or not and we hope he will be under pressure to fulfill his campaign promises,” one official said.

“We will not ease the sanctions if Iran does not take action to stop 20 percent enrichment,” he said.

According to a senior Israeli official, Netanyahu and his aides were aware that the six powers − the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany − were planning to resume diplomatic talks with Iran following Rohani’s election. The official said Netanyahu and his aides have not ruled out the possibility that the move will include opening a direct line of communication between the United States and Iran.

Netanyahu at the Likud-Beiteinu campaign launch in 2012.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Illustration by Haaretz.

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