Barak: Israel Isn't Looking for War With Iran Over Its Nuclear Program

In interview with Israel Radio, Defense Minister says would be 'happy' if economic sanctions, diplomacy would convince Tehran to drop military nuclear program.

Israel isn't looking for war with Iran, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday, adding that he would be pleased if diplomatic moves and sanctions would sway Tehran away from its contentious nuclear program.

Barak's comments came after U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said on Wednesday that he did not know whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it decided to take military action against Iran.

Ehud Barak.
Moti Milrod

He said the United States was convinced that sanctions and diplomatic pressure was the right path to take on Iran, along with "the stated intent not to take any options off the table" - language that leaves open the possibility of future military action.

"I'm not sure the Israelis share our assessment of that," Dempsey added.

Speaking on the chances of an Israeli strike of Iran's nuclear program on Thursday, Barak told Israel Radio that "Israel isn't looking for war with Iran and has no intention of acting right now."

The defense minister added, however, that Israel was "very strong, and far from being paralyzed with fear or fright and must proceed quietly and calmly."

Barak referred to recent European and U.S. financial sanctions against Iran, in the wake of an attack by protesters on the U.K. embassy in Tehran, saying that "any step that would prevent the need for military actions is a positive one, and British and European response in recent days to events in Iran have been correct."

"I would have been happy if sanctions and diplomacy could lead the leadership in Tehran to completely discard the military nuclear program," Barak added.

Barak's comments came after Israeli intelligence sources told the Times of London on Wednesday that a recent explosion in the western Iranian city of Ishafan was not an accident, as Iranian officials had claimed, and that the local uranium conversion plant had been damaged in the blast.

The intelligence officials told the Times that updated satellite images showed smoke billowing from the direction of the conversion plant.

According to the Israeli sources, there was "no doubt" that the blast had damaged the nuclear facility, and that the explosion was not an "accident."

"This caused damage to the facilities in Isfahan, particularly to the elements we believe were involved in storage of raw materials," one source told the Times.