Vice prime minister: There’s still time for sanctions to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive

Silvan Shalom comes out against notion that economic pressure won’t work; former army operations chief warns of regional war if Israel attacks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and the incoming Minister of Energy Silvan Shalom (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90/File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and the incoming Minister of Energy Silvan Shalom (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90/File)

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have reportedly almost made up their minds on a fall strike on Iran, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Sunday that Israel should give sanctions more time.

In an interview with Army Radio, Shalom said that Israel and the United States need to work together to achieve international agreement on harsher Iran sanctions.

“If the sanctions are for real, they get the job done. We saw that with the apartheid era in South Africa, we saw it with Libya’s nuclear program and we saw it with North Korea,” said Shalom. “Maybe we’ll see them work against Iran.”

Shalom said that the current sanctions placed by the international community on Iran were not effective enough to bring about a 180 degree shift in Iran’s nuclear policy, but that if the regime is made to feel it is at risk, it could abandon its nuclear ambitions.

To do that, Shalom said, there is a need for even harsher restrictions to be placed on the Iranian economy.

The former foreign minister said that Russia and China were not going to support tougher sanctions, fearing rising energy costs and the loss of regional influence, but that the US and Europe could do more than they were doing at present.

When asked if he sided with the prime minister on the necessity of an Israeli strike on Iran, Shalom said, “I believe we still have time to convince the Americans to implement tougher sanctions.”

Meanwhile, retired Maj.-Gen. Israel Ziv warned that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would result in another regional war.

Ziv, a former IDF chief of operations, said that a potential strike on Iran is very different from Operation Opera, the 1981 mission that saw Israeli planes knock out Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, because Iran has “a series of systems” that need to be taken out rather than just a single target.

Whether or not Israel was successful in destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities, Ziv said, the result would almost certainly be war. Hamas and Hezbollah would be sure to respond, he said, and the possibility of avoiding a full-scale war was “very slight.”

Ziv added that the media campaign in favor of an Israeli strike by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak displayed the “insecurity of the political elite.”

On Friday, Channel 2 News devoted much of its evening program to the issue of Iran, positing that Netanyahu and Barak are “almost ready” to approve an Israeli military attack despite opposition from the Obama administration and from many Israeli security chiefs. Several Hebrew newspapers have carried similar assessments, apparently based on briefings by people close to the prime minister and defense minister.

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