Netanyahu hints Israel can’t destroy Iran nuke program

Israel can inflict ‘significant damage’ to Iranian facilities, but the US military is ‘perfectly’ capable of destroying them, PM says

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to the AJC Board of Governors in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 28, 2013. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to the AJC Board of Governors in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 28, 2013. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Israel could do “significant damage” to Iran’s nuclear program in a military strike, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week, seeming to admit that Jerusalem would need help from the US or another country if it wanted to fully demolish Tehran’s nuclear drive.

Speaking before the board of the American Jewish Committee, Netanyahu said the United States was “perfectly” capable of knocking out Iran’s enrichment program, widely believed to be for military purposes, Maariv reported.

Netanyahu’s statement seems to falls in line with past assessments by US officials and other experts that a unilateral Israeli strike would fall short of destrying the Iranian program. Official Jerusalem has maintained that it could proceed on its own should the world not act before the Iranian program crosses the “red line” beyond which it can build a nuclear bomb.

Netanyahu told the AJC delegation, in Israel for a three-day visit, that Western economic sanctions against Iran, which were “a result of Israeli pressure on the international community,” would only be effective if the Iranians have a “credible threat” over their heads.

“To be a credible threat, you have to mean it,” Netanyahu said. “That is, if the sanctions are not effective, and they are not so far, you will use it.”

“This is a specific task that the US is able to do perfectly, and we are able to cause significant damage,” the prime minister said, adding that 2013 was the “year of decision” because of Iran’s continuing efforts to acquire enough highly-enriched uranium to create a nuclear bomb, despite sanctions.

Last week, a massive explosion was reported at Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility and reportedly confirmed by unnamed Israeli sources, although Iran denied that the incident took place, as did the US and the IAEA.

Iran is enriching uranium at Fordo to a level that is just a technical step away from nuclear warhead material, although Tehran says it is enriching only for reactor fuel and for scientific purposes and denies accusations it wants nuclear arms.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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