The Jerusalem Post - August 26, 2004


By Arieh O'Sullivan

With verbal tensions rising daily between Iran and Israel, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee head Yuval Steinitz said the West should not expect "little Israel" to take pre-emptive action to save the world from Iranian nuclear weapons.

It is the free world, led by the United States, that must stand behind its pledge not to let Iran get the bomb, Steinitz said.

He warned that Iran aims at becoming a global nuclear power with long-range Shihab missiles that would put Europe and NATO forces in range.

"This is a problem of the leaders of the civilized world. One shouldn't expect little Israel to solve a global problem like this," Steinitz said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

"The United States itself has said that it won't hesitate to use any means at its disposal to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. If, God forbid, the free world, led by the United States, doesn't stand behind these words, then a dark curtain will descend on the world raising the possibility of nuclear terror against us and Europe and NATO," Steinitz said.

"Iran is a totally irresponsible and unpredictable totalitarian regime that is ready to sacrifice millions of its people for its crazy ideology," Steinitz said.

His comments came after a week of nearly daily warnings by Iran against Israel for staging a pre-emptive strike against its widespread nuclear infrastructure. The rhetoric came amid reports that the IAF and commandos have completed rehearsals for attacking Iranian nuclear sites such as the reactor in Bushehr. The reports said Israel would under no circumstances allow Iran to "go critical."

After taking a back seat in the diplomatic war against Iranian nuclear endeavors, Israel has again become the loudest voice warning that Iran is trying to manufacture nuclear weapons in the guise of peaceful nuclear power industry.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who is visiting Paris this week, urged France, Germany, and Britain to intensify their pressure on Iran.

The latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on its investigation into Iran's nuclear program is due to be released in the coming weeks. The White House is expecting a strong statement from the IAEA board and sanctions or nuclear weapons inspections may ensue.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who has issued daily threats against an Israeli strike, said Thursday in Manila that Iran is pushing for a nuclear-free Middle East.

Earlier this month, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani warned that Iran retains the option of pre-emptive strikes to prevent an attack on its nuclear facilities. His warning was followed by a test of an improved version of its Shihab-3 missile, which is capable of hitting Israel.

But Steinitz said Israelis have nothing to fear from the Shihab rockets... yet.

While Israel is within the Shihab's 1,300-kilometer reach, Iran only has an arsenal of about two dozen, and they can only be armed with 700-kilogram conventional warheads.

"The missiles are very inaccurate, and are completely ineffective against a military target or the nuclear reactor in Dimona," Steinitz said. "We shall intercept most of them with our Arrow missiles."

Steinitz maintained that Iran is developing its Shihabs solely for the purpose of arming them with nuclear warheads.

"Conventional wisdom says you don't develop a missile with a range greater than 1,000 km. for conventional warheads. This is one of the signs that they are aiming to achieve nuclear capacity in the future," Steinitz added.

According to military intelligence, the Iranians are currently developing the Shihab 4 and 5, with ranges of 3,000 km. and 6,000 km., putting Europe under Iranian missile threat.