Transparency, Sanctions May Prevent Iran Strike: Iran Expert

Washington, Jan. 30 - Iran could avert a strike on its nuclear facilities by emulating Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi who renounced nuclear weapons in 2003 and granted full access to international inspectors, said Ronen Bergman, an Iran expert who authored the Sunday (Jan. 29) New York Times Magazine cover story, “Will Israel Attack Iran?

“Of course Israel would be satisfied, and the option of an attack would be canceled,” Bergman said today (Jan. 30) in a conference call hosted by The Israel Project. “Nobody in Israel really wants to go for a strike … Everybody sees it as an option and would be happy if Israel doesn’t have to go through with such an attack.”

Were Israel to launch an operation to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, it would do so to protect its existence and aim strictly to take out those sites related to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear project, said Bergman, noting he is an independent journalist and does not speak on behalf of the Israeli government.

Last November, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded in a detailed report that Iran’s nuclear program was designed to develop a weapon, rejecting Iran’s insistence that it was purely for peaceful purposes. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders have declared repeatedly that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

If an attack on Iran were to take place, it would likely occur this year, Bergman said.

“I’m under the impression that 2012 … is the crucial year Israel would reach a crucial decision,” Bergman said in the conference call. His New York Times piece included interviews with Israeli political and military leaders, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Mossad director Meir Dagan.

Bergman said he had been asked repeatedly since his piece was published whether Israeli officials were serious about carrying out a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities or “are they just trying to frighten the world to get more severe sanctions?”

“I think both are true,” Bergman said. The Israelis, he said, are “trying to send a message saying ‘hold us back before we do something’,” and would vastly prefer effective sanctions over a strike.

Another option, Bergman said, is that the United States could decide to take military action. “Most people don’t see a strike coming from American hands,” he said but President Barak Obama had taken some “very strong and stubborn decisions” – including the strike on terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Bergman said tough sanctions against Iran could still work. Last week, the European Union instituted an embargo on buying Iranian oil. If the regime felt itself threatened, it might still step back.

“If they reconsider the project,” Bergman said, “this may result in a positive outcome before the end of the year – before a decision is taken to strike.”

Bergman writes extensively on Middle Eastern security, military and intelligence affairs. He has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign AffairsNewsweekThe Times, Guardian,Der SpiegelFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and GQ Magazine.

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