Israel fears war may benefit Iran
By Aluf Benn
[Ha'aretz - 14 Feb}
Israeli officials are warning the United States not to allow Iran to be the main beneficiary of any war with Iraq. In talks with U.S. officials, Israel has stressed the need to continue pressure on Iran and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.
The threat posed by Iran will be at the center of talks to be held this weekend by American Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton, who is due in Israel tomorrow.
Bolton, a keen supporter of Israel in the Bush administration, is due to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and a series of other senior government officials.
Defense sources in Israel expressed concern that Iran would benefit from the coming visit of the director of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), Muhammed ElBaradei. Last week, Iran announced that it was preparing uranium extracted from local mines for use as fuel. The Iranians insist the uranium will be used in civilian reactors, but the technology would allow them to develop independent access to enriched uranium for future use in nuclear weapons.
Iranian authorities invited ElBaradei to inspect the uranium enrichment and heavy water installations after the Iranian opposition revealed their construction.
Israel is concerned the visit by the head of the IAEA will provide legitimacy for the Iranian program and make it more difficult to block in the future.
WASHINGTON - 15 Feb; The $64 question here is whether the Bush administration, drunk with its assumed success in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, may ...challenge
neighbouring Iran, the third member of the "axis of evil", alongside Iraq
and North Korea.
The loudest cheering here for adopting such a course comes from influential
supporters of Israel and a cabal of right wingers or neoconservatives,
especially those in key governmental departments or the media.
It was noteworthy that ...Powell chose George Tenet, head of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), to accompany him to the UN Security Council last
week when he presented his flawed indictment of the Iraqi regime. There have
been many former intelligence officers, as well as retired senior officers
from the armed forces like General Anthony Zinni, a former commander of the
US Central Command, which includes Iraq and the Middle East, who have voiced
opposition to the anticipated American war on Iraq.
Leslie H. Gelb, president of the influential Council on Foreign Relations,
said in an interview that there was "much more scepticism than support" for
the Bush administration's Iraq policies among the 4,000 or so members of the
nation's elite foreign policy think tanks.
Besides Iran, the neo-conservatives and their allies within the
administration, as well as Israeli supporters, have lately begun to target
Syria, accusing it of hiding some of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons.
Once the Iraqi regime is overthrown, they underlined, Syria will be totally
surrounded by pro-American regimes, giving the Bashar Assad regime little
room to manoeuvre. The neutralisation of Iraq, Iran and Syria has long been
the objective of Israeli governments of all shades and persuasion.
But the immediate focus has been Iran, which has announced last Monday that
it has started mining uranium for the first time and will soon open a
facility to process the ore into fuel for "peaceful purposes". This project
would give Iran, which Israel and the US believe is seeking to develop
nuclear weapons, independent access to fissile material. Meanwhile, it
relies on Russia for its nuclear fuel.
Michael Eisenstadt, a senior fellow at the pro-Israel Washington Institute
for Near East Policy, claimed in a recent article distributed on the
Internet that "without effective steps on Washington's part, Iran's
embattled conservative clerical leadership might obtain a nuclear weapon
before they are removed form power." He claimed that Iran is now the
"premier customer" for North Korean arms, missiles and, more recently,
nuclear technology. But, Eisenstadt noted, regime change may not alter
Iran's motivation to develop nuclear weapons.
"It could, however, bring to power leaders who are more sensitive to the
potential costs of nuclear weapons .... Therefore, Washington should
leverage successful regime change in Afghanistan (and, perhaps soon, in
Iraq) to embolden those seeking political change in Tehran and to deter the
more bellicose members of Iran's clerical leadership."
At the same time, he wrote that "Washington should continue its efforts to
curtail Russian assistance to Iran while tightening restrictions on ongoing
activities at its reactors". Otherwise, he suggested, the United States
might have to consider "prevention action" against Iran's nuclear
infrastructure, provided it is careful not to "poison the reservoir of
pro-American sentiment among Iranians". Ultimately, he concluded, preventing
an Iranian "nuclear breakout might depend on Washington's ability to
forestall cooperation between Pyongyang and Tehran". IMRA - 16 Feb