US, EU, and Israel: To Delay Military Action and Embargo

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday that Israel was “very far off” from a decision about an attack on Iran over its nuclear program.

Barak was speaking on Israel’s Army Radio ahead of a planned visit this week by U.S. armed forces chief General Martin Dempsey that has triggered speculation Washington would press Israel to delay any action against Tehran’s nuclear program.

The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.

The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon – or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.

Moreover, Israeli analysts believe 2012 will be a bad year for Iran, including more pressure, the tougher public line now being taken by U.S. President Barack Obama, and also more uncertainty and instability, in both the region as a whole and Iran in particular.

Instead, Iran threatened to shut down the Straits of Hormuz, and thereby choke off a major portion of the world’s oil supply. And under certain circumstances, it could also decide to make a sprint for a nuclear weapon.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration recently warned Israel not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, and Dempsey stressed that Israel has no such plan.

Besides, Israeli officials have made contradictory statements in recent days about the effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the sanctions in an interview with an Australian paper, but later told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that they were insufficient.

On one hand, Iran is facing an extensive and growing international pressure.

The web of pressure includes not only the openly acknowledged moves, such as sanctions, but also mysterious incidents that include assassinations, explosions, and computerized sabotage.

While the stealthy actions are spearheaded largely by the United States and allies and quickly encompass more and more countries across the globe, just who is behind the covert activities and why remains a mystery.

Although, U.S. and other Western officials say the goal of the sanctions — which target Iran’s central bank, oil exports, trade deals and more — is to push the country to cooperate on nuclear issues and sit down at the negotiating table.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes; U.S. and other Western officials complain Tehran is seeking a nuclear arsenal.

With no sign of serious negotiations on the horizon, both sides have ratcheted up their efforts.

In public comments, U.S. officials generally focus on the sanctions, including those imposed by the United States and the U.N. Security Council, which U.S. officials call “unprecedented” for Iran, furthermore US officials put pressure on EU to impose oil embargo on Iran.

Meanwhile, a meeting of European ambassadors in Brussels on Thursday is expected to decide on an EU oil embargo on Iran to be imposed later in the year, diplomats have said. Majority opinion within the EU has coalesced around a proposal from the Danish government, acting EU president, for the embargo to be put into effect on 1 July, and for the decision to be reviewed beforehand in light of conditions in the oil market and developments in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

A decision to impose an EU embargo, which would come into effect at the same time as US punitive measures aimed at the global financing of Iran’s oil exports, would radically increase pressure on Tehran, which has already been subject to four waves of UN sanctions for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

Despite all, Iran thinks that since the threat of nuclear program postponement by military attack was removed as Fordou enrichment center started to work, 2012 will be a year for Iran to show up powerfully in the world.

 

Sources:  CNN, The Guardian, Haaretz