Israel’s retiring defense chief thinks Iran needs to be “coerced” in 2013 from building an atom bomb, despite any U.S. hopes that sanctions will bring Tehran to the negotiating table. And the recent success of his new, U.S.-funded missile defenses seems to have convinced him that Israel is better able than ever to deter its Iran-backed foes.
“Of course, we would love to see some heavenly intervention that will stop them, to wake up some morning and learn that they’ve given up on their nuclear intentions,” Barak told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday during a joint press conference with Leon Panetta, his American counterpart. “You cannot build a strategy based on these wishes or prayers. Sanctions are working and they are more hurting than anything I remember from the past vis-a-vis Iran, but I don’t believe these kinds of sanctions will bring the ayatollahs to a moment of truth where they sit around a table, look into each other’s eyes and decide that the game is over.”
Not exactly what Panetta wanted to hear during what was supposed to be a friendly press conference in which they celebrated how the U.S.-backed Iron Dome rocket defense system stopped Hamas’ rocket attacks cold. The U.S. defense chief, who effused over the retiring Barak as “a man of peace” and praised their long friendship, said the “unprecedented pressure” on Iran from international sanctions present “time and space for an effort to try to achieve a diplomatic solution.”
Not likely, thinks the retiring Barak. “During the coming year and hopefully before they reach what I have called a ‘zone of immunity’” — a point at which Israeli airstrike couldn’t meaningfully hinder Iranian nuclear work — Iran “will be coerced into putting an end to it this way or another way,” Barak said. “The physical attack option is an option that should be there, should remain on the table, never be removed.”