“If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective,” Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz told the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
“Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable,” said the former army chief who has also been defense minister.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not address Mofaz’s comments directly but said that “all options must remain on the table” and said more could be done to put financial pressure on Tehran.
“Israel believes strongly that while the U.N. sanctions are positive, much more needs to be done to pressure the regime in Tehran to cease its aggressive nuclear program,” spokesman Mark Regev said.
Many assume that no Israeli government will let the Iranians build a nuclear arsenal, and Mofaz’s words — he also used “unavoidable” in the same sentence as “attacking Iran”– constitute the most explicit threat to use force to date. Because it looks unlikely that the Iranians will stop their program to enrich uranium, war in the Persian Gulf is becoming inevitable.
So this appears to be the last chance for the Bush administration to take the lead in stopping Iran. And it is perhaps the last chance for us to maintain the current international system.
Updated: I was out of town this weekend, so this story was a bit stale when I posted it. Here’s an update from the AP. Not surprisingly, the Israeli government has been downplaying Mofaz’s statement:
A spokeswoman for Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said he had not been expressing government policy.
Mofaz set off an international uproar over the weekend by saying in a published interview that Israel will have “no choice” but to attack Iran if it doesn’t halt its nuclear program. Mofaz is a former military chief and defense minister, and has been Israel’s representative in a strategic dialogue on Iran with U.S. officials.
Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, did not explicitly reject Mofaz’s comments. But he said Olmert clearly stated Israel’s policy last week during a trip to Washington.
Speaking to reporters after a White House meeting, Olmert called for tighter international sanctions, including boycotting Iranian businessmen and financial transactions and blocking the country’s imports of refined petroleum. He also warned that a more “effective” solution was drawing closer, but would not elaborate.