Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, has warned that tougher sanctions need to be imposed on Iran despite the unprecedented oil embargo agreed by the European Union earlier this week.
Although he conceded that EU measures would add significant pressure to the Tehran regime, Barak told Israel Radio the embargo was unlikely to force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. “In my opinion, we are not there yet,” he said.
His comments followed those made on Monday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to the EU decision. Netanyahu warned party colleagues that the impact of the embargo was unknown but it was a step in the right direction, hinting that he believed further measures would be needed.
“Very strong and quick pressure on Iran is necessary,” he said. “Sanctions will have to be evaluated on the basis of results. As of today, Iran is continuing to produce nuclear weapons without hindrance.”
The remarks went further than the international consensus which is that Iran has not yet reached a stage where the production of nuclear weapons is possible.
The unprecedented EU decision means its 27-member states will stop importing Iranian oil by July, about the time when stiffer US sanctions will kick in. Some observers fear the measures will lead to an acceleration of Iranian moves towards nuclear capability.
Israel has long pressed for tougher sanctions, linked to threats of military action, to halt Iran’s nuclear development.
Speculation over Israel’s military intentions has intensified over recent weeks with the US urging the political and military establishment to hold back.
Martin Dempsey, the chairperson of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Israel last week to meet Netanyahu, Barak and the Israeli military chief of staff, Benny Gantz. He delivered a strong message of the potentially dire consequences of an Israeli strike.
Some Israeli observers believe the EU measures will tie Israel’s hands until at least July in order to give time for the tougher sanctions to have an impact.
Israel is determined to keep up the pressure, believing it faces an existential threat from the Tehran regime. On Sunday, Netanyahu told his cabinet that 70 years ago the Jewish people were unable to defend themselves against the Nazi genocide.
“The difference between 1942 and 2012 is not the absence of enemies, that same desire to destroy the Jewish people and the state that has arisen,” he said. “This desire exists and has not changed. The difference is our ability to defend ourselves and to do so with determination.
“The Jewish people and the government of Israel have the obligation and the right to prevent another annihilation of the Jewish people or attack on its state.” —