As Israel celebrated its 65th Independence Day, Israeli officials ratcheted up the rhetoric directed against Iran, warning that Israel has the ability to attack Iran’s nuclear sites even without help from other countries. At the same time, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution stipulating that the US will assist Israel “diplomatically, economically and militarily” if the Jewish state is forced to attack Iran.
The Committee’s Chairman Robert Menendez, a Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, co-sponsored the resolution, which is expected to be adopted by the Senate.
The confluence of the statements and the resolution raised the question of whether there has been some dramatic development in Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran insists is solely for peaceful purposes.
“There is no doubt that this is the major challenge facing the international community,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev told The Media Line. “Time is running out.”
Israeli expert on Iran Efraim Asculai said he did not believe that there had been a major development but that the Iranian program is proceeding despite sanctions.
“The Israeli officials were speaking because of Independence Day and not because there’s been some major change,” he said. “At the same time the Iranian program is advancing, although slowly.”
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Israel must prepare to strike Iran.
“The world’s response to the Iranian nuclear program was delayed,” he said. “The fact that centrifuges in Iran are continuing to spin and that enriched uranium has already been collected proves that the regime in Tehran is not impressed by these steps taken so far.”
He said that sanctions have proven ineffective and that the international community must do more to stop Iran.
“Only a significant increase in sanctions, international isolation, assistance as well as moral support to the repressed citizens of Iran and a credible military option, will convince the regime in Tehran that its survival is preferable to the military nuclear project,” he said.
Israel’s Chief of Staff Benny Gantz went even further in a radio interview with Army Radio. Gantz was asked if Israel could go it alone against Iran.
“Unequivocally, yes,” he said. “We will do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.”
At the same time, one of the messages of President Obama’s recent trip to Israel was a warning that an Israeli strike on Iran could cause more instability in the Middle East. Israeli officials have repeatedly stressed that Iran becoming a military power is dangerous to the entire international community, not just to Israel.
Yet Netanyahu has repeatedly said called it “an existential threat” and said Iran must be stopped. While sanctions have struck a blow at the Iranian economy and the Iranian rial, the country has not slowed down its nuclear program. Talks last month in Kazakhstan failed to make any progress either.
Would Israel attack Iran without at least tacit cooperation from the US?
“If there is no actual red light, Israel will probably do what it thinks it needs to do,” Asculai said.