Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on When and Whether Israel Will Attack Iran

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
June 20 2012 7:24 PM

How Long Will Israel Wait?

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on when and whether Israel will attack Iran.

(Continued from Page 2)

U.S. officials are very concerned about Syria's huge pile of chemical weapons and what to do to secure them if the Assad regime goes and the chemical weapons are let loose.

We [are] also. [Assad] now is supported by Hezbollah and Iran. They are the only ones who are actually supporting him physically: sending materials, sending people, providing ideas based on their experience in Lebanon about how to brutalize your own people. When Assad falls, there is a certain risk that Hezbollah will try to grab some weapons systems, some anti-aircraft systems or some long-range missiles from the falling Syrian regime. Some people even raise the risk that they will try to grab some chemical materials. We still prefer to see [Assad] fall, even with all those risks. We are watching and following it carefully.

Do you believe that one good thing about the downfall of Assad would be that it could break the axis between Syria and Iran?

Advertisement

Yes, Iran and Hezbollah are the main supporters [of Syria], and it will be a blow to both the ayatollahs in Tehran and to [Hezbollah's Hasan] Nasrallah and his people in Beirut.

Do you believe that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has lost a lot of power?

The real leader is Khamenei. I heard he is going to retire next year. Basically, [Iran's leadership] is a collective—sometimes American newspapers describe [certain leaders] as either radical or moderate. Don't delude yourself that the moderate ayatollahs are not ayatollahs. All are ayatollahs.

Do you feel this U.S. administration has been supportive of Israel?

In terms of our security? Yes, this administration was really supportive of Israel.

Do you think the U.S. administration understands that you have a difficult choice to make about Iran?

Yes, I think so. The discussions between us and the White House are honest and frank, with a clear understanding of the differences between our point of view and theirs with regard to Iran. We can fully understand the fact that we look at things a different way. I believe that the State Department, Pentagon, and White House understand that when it comes to the vital security interests of Israel, only the government of Israel has to make the decisions.

I would not be surprised if in [the nuclear talks], the Iranians will come with some gambit, trying to blur the picture. They want very much to delay any kind of clear conclusion about their intentions for the next half a year so they can [wait for]
the American election and for a better time for them.

You think they want to delay until after the American election?
Yes.

Why?

Because they want to continue with the program. They are afraid that if they are exposed now, at a certain point, the P5 +1 will say there is no way to deal with them and who knows what will follow. If they gain another half a year, they will have more time.

And then a new administration might come into office.

They waited 4,000 years to have a nuclear bomb, so they can wait another four months. They want to see how the new president, be it Obama or Romney, sees it. In the meantime, they can enrich another [batch of] low-enriched uranium. They want to delay.

Are you worried about the Americans making a bad deal?

We hope for the best. We are realistic and skeptical. We are not part of the P5 + 1, and we do not pretend to run the world. But we shared honestly and clearly with our colleagues in both Europe and America our thought that the Iranians will probably try to gain time by [making] some gestures that will be misread as forthcoming. But if you look at the details, you will see that it really does not block them from moving toward a nuclear weapons program.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Nov. 21 2014 1:38 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? See if you can keep pace with the copy desk, Slate’s most comprehensive reading team.