'Sanctions, declarations not stopping Iran's centrifuges'
Meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, "Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program" • Panetta: U.S. will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon • Former Mossad chief: "If I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks."
Shlomo Cesana, Lilach Shoval and Yori Yalon
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meet soldiers on a tour of the Iron Dome battery, Wednesday.
Photo credit: Reuters
Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Wednesday.
Photo credit: Amit Shabi
Sanctions and diplomacy have not yet had any impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday as he met with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
"Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program. This must change and it must change quickly, because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out," Netanyahu said.
Speaking at the start of his meeting with Panetta in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, "You recently said that sanctions on Iran are having a big impact on the Iranian economy and that is correct. And I’m sure that the recent sanctions advanced by the president and the Congress will have an even greater impact on Iran’s economy ... But unfortunately, it’s also true that neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yet had any impact on Iran’s nuclear weapons program."
The prime minister said the U.S. and Israel had repeatedly made clear that all options were on the table and that "when all else fails, America will act. But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program."
Meanwhile, the Institute for Science and International Security released commercial satellite images from July 25 of a site at the Parchin military complex in Iran that appear to show the final result of considerable sanitization and earth displacement activity. The International Atomic Energy Agency suspects that this complex contains a high-explosive testing chamber that was used for nuclear weapons development.
At the press conference with Netanyahu, Panetta reiterated, "We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Period. We will exert all options in the effort to ensure that that does not happen ... The U.S. stands firmly with Israel, and we have a rock-solid commitment to the security of Israel and to the security of its citizens. And make no mistake, we will remain determined to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Panetta met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the pair visited an Iron Done anti-rocket battery near Ashkelon. Barak said that cooperation between Israel and the U.S. had deepened in a number of areas, and cited the additional $70 million that Israel recently received from the U.S. for the Iron Dome system.
Panetta also met with President Shimon Peres. The two discussed Israel-U.S. ties, the Iranian nuclear issue, and events in Syria and the Sinai Peninsula.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that, following the flurry of high-level U.S. visitors to Israel in recent weeks to discuss Iran, administration officials were hopeful that Israel had no imminent plans to attack Iran and might be willing to let the U.S. take the lead in any future military strike, which they say would not occur until next year at the earliest.
Administration officials told The New York Times that Israeli officials were less confrontational in private and that Netanyahu understood the consequences of military action for Israel, the U.S. and the region. Netanyahu knows "he has to maintain the credibility of his threat to keep up pressure on the United States to continue with sanctions and the development of military plans," the paper reported.
Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, told the newspaper: “The more the Israelis threaten, the more we respond by showing them that we will take care of the problem if it comes to that.”
Speculation is rife over the possible timing of an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear targets. Former Mossad chief and national security adviser Efraim Halevy told the newspaper: "If I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks," in line with the belief of some that a strike could come in September or early October.
"Besides the prime minister’s fear that Israel’s window of opportunity will close soon, analysts cite several reasons for the potential timing: Israel does not like to fight wars in winter. Netanyahu feels that he will have less leverage if President Obama is re-elected, and that if Romney were to win, the new president would be unlikely to want to take on a big military action early in his term," The New York Times reported.