Israeli general believes Iran will not build nuclear bomb

Thu, Apr 26, 2012, 01:00

ISRAEL’S TOP general says he believes that Iran will decide against producing a nuclear bomb, but prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has warned that international sanctions have so far failed to slow down Teheran’s nuclear drive.

Israel, widely believed to be currently the Middle East’s sole nuclear power, warns that it considers Tehran obtaining a nuclear bomb as an existential threat and that “all options are on the table” to prevent such a scenario.

The chief of staff of the Israel defence forces, Lieut Gen Benny Gantz, told the Ha’aretz newspaper that he believed that diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions, along with Israel’s determination to use military force if necessary, will deter Iran from ultimately building a nuclear bomb.

“Iran is moving step by step towards a point where it will be able to decide if it wants to make a nuclear bomb. It has not decided yet whether to go the extra mile.

“In my opinion,” he added, “Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will be making a huge mistake if he does that, and I don’t think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is comprised of very rational people, but I agree that such a capability in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, who at some moments may make different calculations, is a dangerous thing.”

Lieut Gen Gantz said international pressure on Iran was beginning to bear fruit, both on the diplomatic level and on the level of international sanctions.

On negotiations between Iran and six world powers, the general warned that the moment of truth was approaching. “Either Iran takes its nuclear programme to a civilian footing only, or the world, perhaps us too, will have to do something. We’re closer to the end of the discussions than the middle.”

Mr Netanyahu criticised the decision by the P5-plus-1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) to agree to more talks with Iran next month without gaining concessions from the Islamic regime, saying Tehran had been given a “freebie”. Sanctions were affecting Iran’s economy, but were not effective enough. “So far they haven’t rolled back the Iranian programme, or even stopped it by one iota,” Mr Netanyahu said in a CNN interview.

“I can tell you the centrifuges are spinning,” he added. “They were spinning before the talks began recently with Iran. They were spinning during the talks. They were spinning as we speak.”

He also dismissed Iranian claims that its nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes, noting Tehran’s development of long-range missiles, calls by Iranian leaders for Israel’s destruction and the transfer of uranium-enrichment facilities deep underground.

Meanwhile, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak stressed that warnings to strike Iran were not merely a threat to prompt the international community into action.

“We’re not playing games here,” he said. “These are genuine, serious matters. Underpinning all the military preparations, there has to be a willingness to tackle the real challenge if it comes. This is not theoretical.”