As Powers Maneuver, Israel Says No Decision Yet to Attack Iran
JERUSALEM — Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Israel said on Wednesday that any decision on attacking Iran because of its nuclear program was “very far off,” apparently seeking to lower the tone of increasingly nervous discourse as powers maneuver in advance of European moves to intensify sanctions against Tehran.
Iran Tightens Its Security for Scientists After Killing (January 18, 2012)
“Iran will fight to the death to protect its history and culture. Any war in Iran will make the Iraq war look like a romp in the park.”
James, St. Paul, MN.
At the same time, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia renewed his country’s aversion to sanctions and military threats against Tehran, while Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran said his country was ready to resume negotiations with the outside powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — trying to broker a settlement.
Mr. Salehi said during a visit to Turkey on Wednesday that negotiations were under way about the venue and date, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, and that the talks “will most probably be held in Istanbul.”
The previous negotiations — also in Istanbul — broke off a year ago when Iran presented its own set of preconditions, including a lifting of sanctions, that the West considered unacceptable.
Mr. Salehi made similar remarks about a resumption of the talks during a visit to Tehran two weeks ago by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, and some European officials have interpreted his remarks as an effort to buy time just days before European foreign ministers are to meet next week to discuss possible measures to curb Iran’s critical oil exports.
Speaking at an annual news conference in Moscow, Mr. Lavrov took issue with Western policy on Iran, saying a military strike would be a “disaster.”
He said sanctions now being proposed against Tehran had been couched in terms of nuclear nonproliferation but were “seriously intended to have a smothering effect on the Iranian economy and the Iranian population, probably in the hopes of provoking discontent.”
Mr. Barak was speaking in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio at time of high tension following the assassination on Jan. 11 of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy director of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site — an act blamed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday as the work of “the evil hands of arrogance and Zionist agents.” On Tuesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered stricter security to protect Iranian scientists from what some experts have portrayed as a covert war against Iran’s nuclear program.
After the assassination, Israel’s leaders maintained a customary, cryptic silence while the White House condemned it and vigorously denied any responsibility. At least five Iranian scientists with nuclear connections have been killed since 2007.
Tehran says its uranium enrichment efforts are for peaceful civilian purposes, but that assertion jars increasingly with Western insistence, supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iranian scientists have been working toward building nuclear weapons.
Twisting the spiral of regional tension, Israel has been pressing for more aggressive and immediate American-led sanctions against Iran while the Iranians have threatened to shut off the Strait of Hormuz, the maritime conduit for a fifth of the world’s oil.
Mr. Barak’s remarks also came ahead of an imminent visit to Israel by the American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. Israeli media commentators have suggested that General Dempsey was coming in part to warn Israel against going it alone in striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Mr. Barak denied that suggestion, saying that military chiefs “are concerned with formulating different military options and bringing their views to the political leadership, and don’t deal with delivering diplomatic messages.”
Still, efforts seem to be under way on both sides to reduce regional anxieties.
Israel and the United States agreed this week to postpone major joint missile-defense exercises that had been scheduled for the spring. Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, cited “diplomatic and regional reasons, the tensions and instability,” as factors in the delay.
In the interview with Army Radio on Wednesday Mr. Barak reiterated the Israeli assessment that Iran has not started building nuclear weapons.
“The Iranians have not ended the oversight exercised by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said, adding, “They have not done that because they know that that would constitute proof of the military nature of their nuclear program and that would provoke stronger international sanctions or other types of action against their country.”
The official Islamic Republic News Agency confirmed on Tuesday that a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency would visit Iran for three days starting Jan. 29.
Israel has kept open the possibility of military action against Iran, saying that a credible threat is necessary to back up the sanctions effort.
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Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, Ellen Barry from Moscow and Alan Cowell from London.
Another great link: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/atomic_weapons/index.html