Ehud Barak is certain the US has plans for surgical strikes against Iran as a last-ditch measure if Tehran refuses to stop its development of a nuclear weapons capability.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, which was published over the weekend, the defense minister was asked if there were any way Israel could go to war with Iran that did not drag in the US.
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"I don't see it as a binary kind of situation: either they (the Iranians) turn nuclear or we have a fully fledged war the size of the Iraqi war or even the war in Afghanistan," Barak told the American news website.
'Iran won't bend.' Ahmadinejad (Archive photo: AFP)
"What we basically say is that if worse comes to worst, there should be a readiness and an ability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant time frame and probably convince them that it won't work because the world is determined to block them."
The defense minister added, "We of course prefer that diplomacy will do. We of course prefer that some morning we wake up and see that the Arab Spring was translated into Farsi and jumped over the Gulf to the streets of Tehran, but you cannot build a plan on it. And we should be able to do it (stage a surgical series of strikes)."
In a televised interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Barak told the Daily Beast he used to mock his American friends and tell them 'You know, when we are talking about surgical operations we think of a scalpel, you think of a chisel with a 10-pound hammer." However, he said, that's not the case with the Obama administration. Under orders from the White House, he noted, "the Pentagon prepared quite sophisticated, fine, extremely fine, scalpels. So it is not an issue of a major war or a failure to block Iran. You could under a certain situation, if worse comes to worst, end up with a surgical operation."
In the interview, Barak said much more draconian sanctions against Iran need to be imposed, including a kind of "quarantine" on imports and exports. However, he noted that getting such measures past the Russians and Chinese at the United Nations would be very difficult, adding that he does not expect the Iranians will bend.
On Thursday Barak said that global inaction on the bloodbath in Syria is a warning to many countries that they cannot count on outsiders' help - no matter how dire the circumstances.
He suggested that this applied to Israel itself, discouraging its people from backing risks for peace, such as the return of strategic Palestinian territories in exchange for various assurances.
AP contributed to the report