Ehud Barak: Military Action Won't Stop a Nuclear Iran

Ehud Barak cautions in an article in Time that a nuclear-capable Iran is right around the corner, and that the U.S. or Israel would not be able to effectively strike to stop it

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File photo: Missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are on display in Tehran, in 2017.
File photo: Missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are on display in Tehran, in 2017.Credit: Vahid Salemi/AP

Iran is on the brink of being able to produce nuclear weapons, and military action at that stage will no longer be effective, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in an article published Monday in Time.

"Both Israel and (for sure) the U.S. can operate over the skies of Iran against this or that site or installation and destroy it. But once Iran is a de-facto threshold nuclear state this kind of attack simply cannot delay the Iranians from turning nuclear," Barak, who also served as Israel's military chief and defense minister, wrote in the article, titled "Iran can transform itself into a nuclear power – and it's too late to stop it by surgical attack."

While Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only, just last week, a senior aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spoke with Al Jazeera and said that his country has the technical capabilities to manufacture a nuclear bomb.

When Tehran makes the decision – which Iranian officials stress it hasn't – it will become a nuclear threshold state, which Barak argues will effectively happen "this summer."

Former PM and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in 2021.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

"Yes, it will still take them from 18 to 24 months to polish their skills treating metal uranium and packing it into a missile warhead," he said. "But these steps can be executed in a small lab or workshop and cannot be easily followed, never mind stopped."

In his article, Barak – who, apart from a failed bid at a comeback in 2019, has retired from politics since 2013 – questions why either the United States or Israel hadn't prepared attack plans when former U.S. President Donald Trump announced his country was withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.

"It’s time to face reality," Barak argued, proposing to "Start to think and prepare for the real new phase" with Iran as a nuclear state. Then, according to him, regional diplomacy, independent Israeli attack plans and awaiting the "collapse" of the Iranian regime would be the desired courses of action.

Comparing the situation in Iran to Iraq and Syria, who had both pursued nuclear weapons until Israeli strikes brought their nuclear programs to an end, Barak said that "those programs weren’t as advanced as Iran’s program had been allowed to become."

Last week, Israel's military chief Aviv Kochavi said that “preparing a military option against the Iranian nuclear program is a moral necessity and a national security imperative.”

"The preparations are continuing intensively, but preventing Iran from nuclearization through diplomacy is the preferred path,” Kochavi added.

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