Israel's defense minister says any sanctions on Iran should have a time limit so concerned countries can judge their effectiveness, because, he says, Iran should be prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Minister Ehud Barak made the comment at a joint news conference at the Pentagon with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Minister Barak was asked whether the United States should abandon its plan for international sanctions on Iran and move to military options. He indicated Israel is not calling for that now, but he did not rule it out for the future. "We think that they should be blocked. And I think that the time is clearly, at this state, a time for sanctions and diplomacy. We expect the sanctions to be effective and to be limited in time so we'll be able to judge what kind of results stem from the sanctions regime," he said.
Barak said Iran's policies are a challenge to world order and to the global non-proliferation scheme, and only the United States can possibly muster enough international support for strong sanctions. But he said only time will tell whether such sanctions can actually change Iranian policy.
Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, but many countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency are not convinced. Last week, a Pentagon report said Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them over long distances. The head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency told congress Iran is just about a year away from being able to assemble a nuclear bomb.
At Tuesday's news conference, Secretary Gates did not address the issue of military action. The Obama Administration has shifted from making diplomatic overtures to Tehran to seeking international agreement on sanctions. The secretary said the administration is well prepared for any eventuality regarding Iran. "I'm very satisfied with the planning process both within this building and in the inter-agency (process). We spend a lot of time on Iran and will continue to do so," he said.
Gates also criticized Iran and Syria for their aid to the Lebanese group Hezbollah. "Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with rockets and missiles of ever-increasing capability. And we are at a point now where Hezbollah has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world," he said.
Gates called the supply of rockets and missiles to Hezbollah destabilizing, and said the United States is watching the situation closely.
Gates and Barak have met several times in recent years to discuss Iran, missile defense and other security issues.