Israel won't rule out military action as nuclear row with Iran hots up
Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, refused yesterday to rule out military action against Iran, heightening expectations that his government is preparing to authorise an attack on Tehran's nuclear facilities.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Barak said sanctions and international diplomacy had so far failed to deter Iran from seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a prospect that would, he warned, threaten the stability of the "whole world".
"We strongly believe that sanctions are effective or could be effective if they are... paralysing enough, that diplomacy could work if enough unity could be synchronised between the major players, but that no option should be removed from the table," he told 'The Andrew Marr Show'.
The minister's comments come after a week of increasingly insistent claims in the Israeli press that Mr Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu, his prime minister, are lobbying cabinet colleagues to support military strikes against Iran.
The two men, considered Israel's chief political hawks when it comes to Iran, are hoping that a report to be submitted by the UN's nuclear watchdog this week will provide justification for military action, observers and officials have suggested.
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are expected to present the most compelling evidence yet that Iran is exploring ways to build a nuclear weapon, although European diplomats say the report will not amount to "a smoking gun". Even so, the Israeli government will seize on its findings to urge the international community to take more decisive action.
The key conclusions of the IAEA report will inevitably refocus international attention on Iran.
It is expected to confirm that Iran has enough fissile material to build four nuclear bombs if it were further to enrich the uranium in its stockpiles.
Satellite images also show a large steel container at the Parchin base near Tehran that appears to be designed for nuclear-related explosive testing.
Documentary evidence will also flesh out earlier IAEA suspicions that Iran is researching the construction of an atom bomb trigger, has carried out computer simulations on building a nuclear device and is experimenting with the neutron technology needed to ignite a nuclear chain reaction.
The report is likely to conclude Iran is researching how to construct a nuclear weapon but is not actively building one. Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said it was based on "counterfeit" claims.
As alarming as the findings are, European states are still likely to reject military action and call instead for a fifth round of sanctions. (©Daily Telegraph, London)