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Defense Minister: Israel “Far Off” from Any Military Action on Iran

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, said today that Israel was “very far off” from any attack on Iran. More important, Israeli intelligence indicates that they have not yet determined that Iran has decided even to build a nuclear weapon. These are things you don’t hear much in the US press, so let’s run the tape from the Financial Times:

Asked whether the United States was asking Israel to let them know ahead of any assault against Iran, Mr Barak replied:

“We haven’t made any decision to do this,” and added: “This entire thing is very far off.”

When pressed as to whether “very far off” meant weeks or months, Mr Barak replied: “I wouldn’t want to provide any estimates. It’s certainly not urgent.”

The story about Israeli intelligence and Iran comes from Haaretz, probably in a better position to know than the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.

The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon – or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.

Israel also believes the Iranian regime now faces an unprecedented threat to its stability, which for the first time combines both external and internal pressure: from abroad, increasingly harsh sanctions and threats of military action, and at home, economic distress and worries about the results of the parliamentary election scheduled for March.

Of course, Haaretz is Benjamin Netanyahu’s biggest enemy, so maybe they should check overhead for any warplanes over their offices (Netanyahu denies the statement, incidentally).

The US also maintains that sanctions on Iran have been effective, contradicting Israeli claims. But I’m more interested in the fact that the debate in America around Iran has so many sins of omission that it’s impossible to get an unbiased viewpoint.

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David Dayen

David Dayen