Steinitz: US must stop Iran from arming


The Jerusalem Post
Date: 02-13-07

By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL

In the wake of recent doubts expressed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Iran's nuclear capabilities, MK Yuval Steinitz pushed Tuesday for the United States to lead the international community in neutralizing an Iranian nuclear threat.

On Monday, Olmert told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that it was likely Iran's nuclear program was "not nearly as advanced as it would have the rest of the world believe." Steinitz, however, continued to say that Iran was the greatest single threat to Israel.

"The only chance to convince Iran to dismantle without using brute force is if you choose a big enough stick and you wave it wildly enough," Steinitz told The Jerusalem Post. The Likud MK added that the goal was to "wave, in order to not to use it."

"At this moment, Iran thinks that Israel is weak politically, so it would be better if the United States were to issue the threats," said Steinitz. "There is one leader of the world and it is not miniscule Israel. Iran is a global threat they are developing a nuclear project to become not just a regional player but a global player."

The most recent boasts by Iran are missiles that can reach 2,000 kilometers, putting Greece into range. In a year or two, said Steinitz, Paris and Britain will be in range as well.

"It might be the case that they are putting so much emphasis on Israel to calm Europe. I cannot avoid recalling Hitler. When he focused on the Jews, the rest of the world was not as concerned. Maybe it is a very wise tactic to tell the rest of the world that it is Israel's problem? Europe seems to be falling for it."

Ultimately, said Steinitz, Iran's goal is to control the entire Gulf region, effectively controlling the oil there and becoming a "medium super power."

While the sanctions on Iran are an important step, Steinitz stressed that there would need to be a serious ultimatum, with the ultimate threat being brute force, for the Iranians to stop their nuclear weapons program. If no steps are taken, it could be anywhere from one to two years, until Iran goes nuclear.

In five or ten years, Steinitz projected, Iran could possess dozens, if not hundreds of missiles with nuclear warheads.

Steinitz also stressed that brute force could be successful at eradicating Iran's nuclear program "The Iranians know that their nuclear project can be destroyed from air, they know how vulnerable they are."

The MK explained that the creation of nuclear weapons requires large, sprawling factories that could not be entirely contained underground.

"Any nuclear project on the face of the earth can be eradicated."

The Iranians recent purchase of anti-aircraft missiles and air defense systems from Russians show the Iranians are feeling vulnerable to air strikes, he added.

While Steinitz congratulated the success of the recent Arrow Missile Defense system, he emphasized that a nuclear Iran is still an existential threat to Israel because no system could provide total protection against missiles.

"Even if the system is extremely successful, and it stops 95 percent of the weapons launched at us, it would still leave 5%, maybe just a few missiles? but if those were nuclear, it would cause terrible damage to Israel."

Turning to Gaza, and the possible missile threat from Palestinian militant groups there, Steinitz said that within one to two years Palestinians would be able to produce missiles which would threaten Ashdod and possibly Beersheba.

The Palestinians, he says, are "sending people to Iran to learn how to produce more dangerous weapons." Using Egypt as a throughway to travel to Iran and back, terrorist groups were actively working on creating more and more threatening weapons.

"It is clear that missiles are forthcoming. The longer we wait the higher the price we will pay," said Steinitz.

Echoing a call he made Monday for Olmert to resign from his office, Steinitz said that the current government was doing nothing to prepare Israel from the brewing threat in the Gaza Strip and should be issued a "wake up call" before it is too late.



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