Iran’s ruling clerics could use nuclear weapons to strengthen their grip on power and the world must urgently impose crippling sanctions to prevent them from building such arms, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday.
Asked about prospects for an Israeli attack on its arch foe Iran’s nuclear sites, Barak said he still believed that it was “time for urgent, coherent, paralyzing” punitive steps targeting Iranian oil trade and its central bank.
“Nothing short of this kind of sanctions will work,” Barak said, adding there was a need for a “direct attack, isolation, by the whole world” of the Iranian central bank.
Speculation that Israel, which sees Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, could launch preemptive strikes against Iran was fuelled by a U.N. report last month which said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon.
The Islamic Republic, which often lashes out at Israel over its assumed atomic arsenal, says allegations that it is seeking nuclear arms are based on forged evidence.
Barak said he would “love to see the Arab Spring jumping over” the Gulf into Iran, referring to political upheaval in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere over the last year.
“This regime in Iran, the ayatollahs, they will be not be there I believe in 10 or 15 years. It is against the nature of the Iranian people and what happens all around the world.
“But if they turn nuclear they might assure another layer of immunity, political immunity for the regime in the same way that Kim Jong-il assured his,” Barak said, referring to the North Korean leader and that country’s development of nuclear weapons.
He suggested that the Libyan conflict could have taken a different course if Muammar Gaddafi had declared at the outset that “he has three or four nuclear devices”.
Earlier this month, Barak said that an Israeli attack on Iran was not imminent. He has also said there were several months left in which to decide on such action.
Turning to events in Palestine, he said Israel might at some stage have to “take more assertive action” in Gaza, where Palestinian fighters responded with rocket attacks on Israel after an Israeli air strike killed two Palestinians last Thursday.