Peres Speaks of Strike on Iran in Exclusive Interview

In an interview with Israel Hayom, Israeli President Shimon Peres says a strike on Iran is more likely than a diplomatic solution.

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Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr, southern Iran. Credit: EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh.

"A military strike on Iran is growing more likely than the diplomatic option," President Shimon Peres said Friday, adding that it seems that "Iran is getting closer to a nuclear bomb. It will probably happen within one year."

In an exclusive interview with Israel Hayom, Peres said, "Iran is nearing atomic weapons and in the time left we must turn to the world's nations and demand (they) fulfill their promise ... which is not merely passing sanctions. It must be understood that this problem is not just ours but the entire world's. Iran threatens not only Israel. What needs to be done must be done and there is a long list of options."

Media reports speculating about whether or not Israel had decided to strike were premature, Peres said. "I do not think a decision has been made, but there is a sense that Iran is well on its way to having nuclear arms." 

Peres said he believes the Iranian regime's days are numbered. "They are corrupt people who exploit their population, most of whom are poor. Their government continues to arm Hezbollah and in the end it will work against them. What message are they trying to send their people?" Peres told Israel Hayom on Friday.

Any potential military strike, however, would be kept entirely confidential, he said. "Telling the enemy our intentions is unacceptable. We must maintain our operational plans discretely."

Peres was speaking days before the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog is to release its much-anticipated latest report into Iran's nuclear program. The IAEA has obtained its strongest confirmation yet that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons at its Parchin military base, and is poised to release a report this week that includes photographic evidence of the Iranian base.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency will prove that Iran built a large steel container for carrying out tests with high explosives that could be used in nuclear weapons, sources briefed on the document said on Friday. The facility at Parchin, near Tehran, lends credence to allegations by IAEA member states that the installation was intended for nuclear-related explosives testing, the sources said.

The IAEA has carried out several previous inspections on Iran's nuclear program, but as opposed to the investigations in the past, which looked at Iran's efforts to create uranium and plutonium, materials that can be used both for nuclear weapons as well as generating electricity, the new report focuses on their efforts to put the radioactive material directly into a warhead. Iran, which opposes Israel's existence, has long said it is enriching uranium only to power reactors for electricity generation, but these photos will serve to disprove that claim.

Speaking to the AFP, one Western diplomat, who declined to give his name, said, "The report is not going to include some sort of 'smoking gun,' but it will be an extensive body of evidence that will be very hard for Iran to refute as forgery, as they have done in the past."

The IAEA will also reveal evidence that Iran carried out computer modeling of a nuclear weapon, one source said.

Western diplomats say the keenly awaited report will strengthen suspicions that Tehran is seeking to develop the capability to make atomic bombs but stops short of explicitly saying it is doing so.

It was unclear when the container was built or whether it was actually used for nuclear-related work.

Suspicions of nuclear arms work at the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran date back at least to 2004 when a prominent nuclear expert said satellite images showed it may be a site for research, testing and production of nuclear weapons.

Iran, which continues to insist its nuclear program is peaceful while at the same time routinely questioning the Holocaust and issuing vitriolic statements against Israel and Zionism, has previously denied the allegations. In 2005, Iran allowed U.N. nuclear inspectors to visit Parchin.

The IAEA in May listed seven areas of concern regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program, including high explosives manufacturing and testing and the development, manufacturing and testing of explosive components.

One of the main hurdles in making an atomic bomb is designing a ring of conventional explosives used to compress atomic material in the warhead core, igniting a nuclear chain reaction. Experiments have to be carried out to test the impact of explosions on bomb components.

The IAEA report is expected to include other evidence of research and other activities that make little sense if not weapons-related, Western diplomats said.

Western powers believe Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies this, saying it is enriching uranium only to power reactors for electricity generation.

Any evidence of nuclear weapons activities would strengthen calls for further sanctions against Iran. Though no direct threats of military action on Iran have been made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both Israel and the U.S. have repeatedly hinted at the possible use of force, saying all options were on the table.

Posted on November 7, 2011 and filed under Israel.