Israel’s defense minister said Friday that a nuclear-armed Iran would be unlikely to strike the Jewish state but would use its arsenal to intimidate adversaries across the Middle East.
“I don’t think the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, (would) drop it in the neighborhood,” Ehud Barak said. “They fully understand what might follow. They are radical but not totally crazy. They have a quite sophisticated decision-making process, and they understand reality.”
Barak was in Washington for a series of meetings with top Obama administration officials amid an intensified U.S. effort to exert pressure on Iran after a year of failed efforts to engage Tehran in nuclear negotiations. Barak also was consulting on efforts to relaunch peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israel is key to the U.S. approach on Iran because of the prospect of an Israeli airstrike to pre-empt Iran’s obtaining a nuclear weapon. The U.S. administration has sought to dissuade Israel from striking, at least while there remains a possibility that international sanctions could prompt a shift in Iranian behavior.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Barak was meeting Friday with Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. On Thursday he held talks at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Speaking at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Barak endorsed President Obama’s efforts to gain international support for a new set of U.N. sanctions against Tehran, although he expressed doubt that sanctions would achieve their aim of compelling Iran to limit its nuclear program.
“What is really needed is significant sanctions, effective ones, within a time limit,” Barak said. He credited the administration with making a strong effort on sanctions. “We appreciate it and we hope it will be successful,” he said. “But we also should carry a certain skepticism and think thoroughly and in a constructive manner about what should happen if — against our hopes and wishes — it won’t work.”
Barak said Iran is undergoing a tumultuous period of internal dissent, but he added that the rest of the world should not assume that the clerical regime will collapse or reform before it manages to get a nuclear weapon.
“We see that the grip of the regime on its own people and even the cohesion of the leading group of ayatollahs are both being cracked,” he said, “and probably the countdown toward their collapse has started.” USAToday