An Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities won't destabilize the Middle East, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in an interview to Paris Match, before flying to Paris for his first meeting with President Francois Hollande Wednesday, Oct., 30.
"Five minutes after [an attack], contrary to what the skeptics say, I think a feeling of relief will spread across the region," he said, adding: Iran is not exactly popular in the Arab world. Some governments in the region, as well as their citizens, understand that a nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous for them, not just for Israel."
The fact that Iran topped the agenda of his talks with the French president is significant because Hollande is the only Western leader who privately believes, though not publicly, that Iran has already developed a nuclear weapon and can only be stopped from advancing toward a complete nuclear arsenal by military action against its nuclear facilities.
On this issue, French intelligence is closer to its Israeli counterpart’s evaluations than they are to US intelligence agencies and their overlap broader.
But after his face-to-face with Netanyahu Wednesday, Hollande said only that he wanted “concrete acts” from Iran to prove it was not pursuing a nuclear arms drive, failing which Paris would back “other sanctions.” This threat was unacceptable to France, said the French president.
But after their encounter, there was no more talk of a military option.
Combined French-Israel assets would outclass Iran’s air-naval strength
On paper, France and Israel together command the necessary military, air and naval resources for carrying through a military option, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report.
US intelligence researchers have established that Israel would require no more than one-third of its air strike fleet for bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. France maintains substantial air strength close at hand at the Al Dhafra Air Base and Port Zayed Naval Base in the UAE, and a third presence at Saudi Arabia’s Tabuk Air Base.
France could also bring to a combined operation the invaluable contribution of the Charles de Gaulle-R91 nuclear aircraft carrier, which is docked at its Persian Gulf home base of Port Zayed.
Israeli military planning for a preemptive attack on Iran never took into account the great benefit of a nuclear aircraft carrier close to Iran. But when it is added to Israel’s three Dolphin Class submarines, which are armed with nuclear cruise missiles, a combined French-Israel operation would theoretically outclass Iran’s air force and naval strength.
Even so, no one in Tehran, whether supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or the Revolutionary Guards, air force or navy chiefs, appear to be bothered by the Israeli prime minister’s trip to Paris.
They are sure that, high-flown talk aside, President Hollande will not venture to go to war against Iran’s nuclear program, any more than he means to put French boots on the ground against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Al Qods Brigades’ creeping takeover of Syria, or Hizballah’s capture of parts of Lebanon.
Israel’s “red lines” start melting
Since Netanyahu’s Sept. 27 UN speech, which moved Israel’s “red line” for attack to the spring or early summer of 2013, Tehran also appears to have lost its fear of Israel.
Suddenly, they saw the Israeli strike for which everyone was braced to take place in or around September-October had disappeared. They then heard President Barack Obama and Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney both telling American voters that a military option for pulling Iran back from a nuclear capability was their last resort after all other options had been exhausted.
So Tehran feels it can safely forge ahead with its nuclear plans without fear of interruption by foreign foes.
On the day of Netanyahu’s Paris Match interview, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in advance of a trip to London, offered the Daily Telegraph his version of why the September attack was called off.
“An immediate crisis was avoided in the summer when Iran quietly chose to use over a third of its medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes, delaying the moment when it could have built a nuclear bomb,” Barak explained. Were it not for this decision, Barak said, the situation would “probably” have peaked before the US presidential election.
Earlier this year, Barak said, Iran had amassed 189kg of uranium enriched to 20 per cent purity, a vital step towards weapons-grade material. But then in August, Iran’s nuclear experts took 38 per cent of this stockpile and converted it into fuel rods for a civilian research reactor, thus putting off the moment when they would be able to make uranium of sufficient purity for a nuclear bomb.
The Israeli minister said this decision “allowed contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months."
Iran again conned Israel and the West
On the face of it, this explanation makes sense for why an attack on Iran, due to take place in the late summer-early fall of 2012, was postponed. It also portrays Iran’s leaders as rational politicians, which contradicts Israel’s central argument for keeping nuclear weapons out of Tehran’s irresponsible, hate-crazed hands.
But Barak glibly slid around a “small” fact which both he and Netanyahu forgot to mention.
When Iran's military and political leaders decided to "quietly use over a third of their medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes,” it was not just to delay an imminent attack, as Barak suggested but, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources, in order to quietly finish installing all their 3,000 advanced Iranian centrifuges safely in the underground Fordo plant. There, they were able to get straight down to boosting their product of 20-percent grad enriched uranium in the shortest possible time.
In short, Tehran “sacrificed” some of the fissile material it had amassed for building one nuclear bomb for the sake of a project to manufacture enough material for an arsenal of four-to-six bombs.