Last Friday, Iran unveiled a newer, faster centrifuge. Iran’s new centrifuge is 10 times more powerful, and can reportedly enrich uranium 6 times faster than its existing model, allowing Iran to produce fuel for as many as 6 nuclear power plants.
Monday, as the world marks Holocaust Remembrance Day, 50 heads of state attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington to coordinate efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. The issue is a key concern because of Iran’s continued defiance of international nuclear negotiations and its arming, funding and training of terrorist groups.
Also on Monday, Israeli Member of Knesset Dr. Ephraim Sneh spoke to a group of journalists about Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Here are the highlights of his answers to the group’s questions.
Dr. Sneh was a doctor for the IDF for many years, before becoming a Member of Knesset for the left-wing Labor party, serving as Deputy Minister of Defense. He is a politician of the “left” in Israel and a recognized defense expert, and these are his words on Iran.
Dr. Sneh spoke during Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, commenting that “no day is better to discuss and understand the problem of nuclear Iran.” He said that:
The main lesson of the Holocaust is that we cannot ignore the combination of a regime with an ideology of hatred and a collosal military buildup. This happened in Germany under Hitler, and is going on now in Iran under Ahmadinejad. Iran is a threat not only to Israel. Their ambition and ideology is a threat to the entire Democratic world. Israel cannot live one day under a nuclear Iran.
Will the United States put crippling sanctions on Iran in time?
This is the most crucial issue now, the key question for everything. One question is: is the US capable of doing it? And the answer is yes, and quickly. Now will there be a political decision in the White House to do it? Crippling sanctions are on the agenda in Congress. [The legislation] is ready. It should be legislated and implemented immediately. Can the US do it? Definitely yes. It is a matter of the political will. Of understanding that there is no more time to waste.
Remember how much time elapsed from the red line the President declared a year ago. First it was the end of summer, then the end of year – we are now in mid-April. And the centrifuges keep on spinning.
They are close to reaching the point of no return, when they have the know-how and the technology. This makes the range of time to actually making a bomb very short. You don’t have more time to waste. If you are taking by surprise and discover in June or September that they have already crossed a certain line, where they can freely and quickly produce fissile material for a bomb, it’ll be too late. We don’t have time.
If Iran were to continue making a nuclear bomb, what does that do to the threat from Hamas and Hezbollah?
Hamas and Hezbollah are Iran’s main proxies. The closer Iran is to a bomb, the higher is their arrogance, and their ability and courage to carry out terrorist acts. When they feel they have the backing of a nuclear state, they walk taller and feel more confident, and have more readiness to continue all their activities, including political subversion against Mahmoud Abbas’ government in the Palestinian territories, and against those in Lebanon that don’t want to become part of the Iranian empire, and continuing to prepare for missile and rocket atacks on Israel in the North and South.
You have said that Iranian retaliation [for a strike] would cause soaring gas prices and casualties in the US. Others predict economic dislocation and prolonged war. Is Israel obliged to refrain from an attack without US acquiescence?
For us the retaliation would be painful but bearable. [The price] is worth paying.
Nothing is worse than to live under a nuclear Iran, while this is the regime that governs Iran – a regime that is based on visceral hatred not only toward Israel, but the entire value system that both of our countries share. To live under Iran’s nuclear threat is worse than the damage that they can inflict.
Would an attack on Iran destroy the regime-change movement and drive Iranians to unite in nationalism?
The Iranian people hate the regime so fiercely, so profoundly, that the [old] notion that if an external power takes out the nuclear facilities, people will rally around the regime – today it’s not the case. If you watch what has been going on in Iran from June 2009 to today, you see that these are people who very strongly resent the regime, hate the regime, and want very strongly for it to change.
I don’t think a military attack is the preferred option. It’s the least preferred option. It’s the last resort. But I ask myself – if nobody has tried crippling sanctions – why not try it?
If companies all over the world know that if they invest in Iran’s oil and gas industry or sell them refined petroleum, they will not be able to do business in the States, in the UK, in France, in Australia, in Canada – no sane executive would take this upon himself. And by doing so we may bring about the implosion of the Iranian regime.
The purpose of sanctions is not just to avoid an Iranian nuclear bomb. It is to get rid of this horrible regime, which is cruel and brutal at home, and aggressive and spreading terrorism abroad – in Afganistan, in Lebanon, in Israel – everywhere.
What do you think are the main obstacles to sanctions?
That is not for me to say. It’s your administration, I dont know. We are not speaking about war, we’re not speaking about sending soldiers to get killed. It’s legislation, and the ability to impose the legislation. It’s a drop of ink, not a drop of blood.
And let me emphasize – we are speaking about a regime which does not have legitimacy at home, which imposed itself on the people through brutal methods of torture and arrest of dissidents and shutting down of the press. Whom are we talking about? One of the lousiest regimes on earth.
What is the connection between Iran and the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians – what negative impact has Iran had on that process moving forward?
Iran is the number one spoiler of the peace process. [After all the peace agreements signed in the ’90s] – why was it all stopped? A wave of terrorism sponsored and directed by Iran. The attacks of suicide bombers in restaurants and buses and shopping malls started after [Israel] signed the first peace agreement with the Palestinians. Since then Iran is financing and equipping and training and directing all the organizations that are directed at disrupting the peace process – the Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah. If someone seriously wants to promote the peace process – this regime must be kicked out.
What is the role of European countries in the sanctions process?
Today, all the South-Eastern parts of Europe are already in range of Iranian ballistic missiles. Their range extends far beyond Israel. Someone has to ask themselves – what is the target of those missiles? Europe is gradually coming under this threat and into danger. In future, even Western Europe will be under the range of new Iranian missiles.
They should understand that they also cannot tolerate an Iranian regime with nuclear blackmail capacity.
What they are supposed to do is to join in when the US declares real sanctions. Not only France and Germany, wher there is a good understanding of the situation, but other countries, as well. They have good business dealings with Iran, but should understand that they cannot finance the arch-rival of democracy. They should join the US and UK and other countries in these sanctions.
Dr. Sneh’s Closing Comments
The key to a peaceful Middle East, to a safer Middle East, the key to the success of a peace process, is that the regime in Tehran would no longer be able to be the spoiler of the process, and we have to deny them their ability to have nuclear blackmail against all those countries in our region that don’t want to be their slaves, and be a part of their empire.
I speak about Bahrain and the UAE, and also about Iraq – which is now struggling to have a government not under the control of Iran. It’s the regime – not the people, and not even the state of Iran – it’s the Ayatollahs. And the measures that can bring down this regime are primarily economic measures.
The situation inside Iran is of pre-revolutionary conditions. We need to encourage it by making it impossible for regime to govern. Don’t push Israel into a corner where we have no other option.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear your responses to Dr. Sneh in the comments section. Especially to his question regarding our administration – what are the main obstacles to sanctions?
[Photos: public.resource.org, Wikipedia]