Israeli IDF head thinks Iran is undecided on building nuclear weapons

In an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz,  Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, head of the IDF, said he does not think Iran will build nuclear weapons. He believes that Iran is undecided, saying it "is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

In an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz,  Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, head of the IDF, said he does not think Iran will build nuclear weapons. He believes that Iran is undecided, saying it "is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn't decided to go the extra mile." His cautious statements contrast with the dramatic rhetoric of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While Gantz said he believes Iran's leadership is comprised of rational people, in an interview with CNN, Netanyahu said he wasn't willing to bet "the security of the world on Iran's rational behavior." Gantz added that these diplomatic efforts, in addition to the heavy application of international sanctions on Iran, are "beginning to bear fruit." Netanyahu concurs that sanctions are having an impact on the Iranian economy. However, he believes they have failed to sufficiently slow down or stop the Iranian nuclear aspirations. Iran met with the United States and five world powers this month for negotiations on its nuclear program, and is scheduled for a second meeting in late May. Tehran claims its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. However, a U.N. International Atomic Energy report showed evidence that Iran is covertly working to obtain nuclear weapons capabilities.

Syria

United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan briefed the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, remarking that the situation in Syria is "bleak." Annan voiced concern over reports that Syrian forces attack towns after U.N. observers depart. According to activists, between 30 and 50 people were killed during an assault in the Arbaeen neighborhood of Hama after U.N. monitors left the city. However, Annan cited progress in Homs, saying "violence has dropped significantly in response to the presence of a very small number of observers." The briefing came after Annan's spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, reported on U.N. Television that "people who approach the observers may be approached by security forces or Syrian army and harassed or arrested or even worse, perhaps killed." He added that despite promises, the Syrian government had not withdrawn troops and heavy weapons from populated areas as dictated in Annan's six-point peace plan. Meanwhile, shelling has continued in the Damascus suburb of Douma for the second straight day. The United Nations Security Council approved an expansion of the U.N. observer mission to 300 monitors, however according to Herve Ladsous, the under-secretary general for peacekeeping, the deployment was coming along slowly. He predicts that only 100 additional monitors will be in place by the end of May.

In an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz,  Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, head of the IDF, said he does not think Iran will build nuclear weapons. He believes that Iran is undecided, saying it "is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn’t decided to go the extra mile." His cautious statements contrast with the dramatic rhetoric of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While Gantz said he believes Iran’s leadership is comprised of rational people, in an interview with CNN, Netanyahu said he wasn’t willing to bet "the security of the world on Iran’s rational behavior." Gantz added that these diplomatic efforts, in addition to the heavy application of international sanctions on Iran, are "beginning to bear fruit." Netanyahu concurs that sanctions are having an impact on the Iranian economy. However, he believes they have failed to sufficiently slow down or stop the Iranian nuclear aspirations. Iran met with the United States and five world powers this month for negotiations on its nuclear program, and is scheduled for a second meeting in late May. Tehran claims its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. However, a U.N. International Atomic Energy report showed evidence that Iran is covertly working to obtain nuclear weapons capabilities.

Syria

United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan briefed the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, remarking that the situation in Syria is "bleak." Annan voiced concern over reports that Syrian forces attack towns after U.N. observers depart. According to activists, between 30 and 50 people were killed during an assault in the Arbaeen neighborhood of Hama after U.N. monitors left the city. However, Annan cited progress in Homs, saying "violence has dropped significantly in response to the presence of a very small number of observers." The briefing came after Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, reported on U.N. Television that "people who approach the observers may be approached by security forces or Syrian army and harassed or arrested or even worse, perhaps killed." He added that despite promises, the Syrian government had not withdrawn troops and heavy weapons from populated areas as dictated in Annan’s six-point peace plan. Meanwhile, shelling has continued in the Damascus suburb of Douma for the second straight day. The United Nations Security Council approved an expansion of the U.N. observer mission to 300 monitors, however according to Herve Ladsous, the under-secretary general for peacekeeping, the deployment was coming along slowly. He predicts that only 100 additional monitors will be in place by the end of May.

Headlines  

  • Five people died in clashes in eastern Turkey between Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces.
  • Four Bahrain police officers were injured in a bomb blast during clashes between security forces and protesters.
  • Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council passed legislation banning political parties built "on the "basis of regional, tribal, or religious affiliation."

Arguments & Analysis

‘Lost in Transition: The World According to Egypt’s SCAF’ (International Crisis Group)

"Since it assumed power after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been, at times, head-scratching. Extolled in the wake of the uprising as the revolution’s protector, many have come to view it as an agent of the counter-revo­lu­tion. It often has been obstinate, before abruptly yielding to pressure. It values its long ties with Washington, from which it receives much assistance, but seemed willing to jeopardise them by targeting U.S.-funded NGOs. Suspected by Islamists of seeking to deprive them of opportunity to govern and by non-Islamists of entering a secret pact with the Muslim Brotherhood, it finds itself in the worst of both worlds: an angry tug-of-war with liberal protesters and a high-wire contest with Islamists. It displays little interest in governing, wishing instead to protect privileges, but erratic behaviour threatens even that. On the eve of presidential elections that have become a high-stakes free-for-all, the SCAF should take a step back and, with the full range of political actors, agree on principles for a genuine and safe political transition"

Maliki’s gamble with a militia is risky‘ (Kholoud Ramzi al-Amiry, The Daily Star)

"But Maliki, who is preparing for the 2013 provincial council elections and is vying for local support in his 2014 bid for a third term, has miscalculated. Playing the Asaib Ahl al-Haq card is not a winning move – and it has already brought unwelcome pressure. By bringing the militia into the political fold, Maliki aspires to present himself as a tolerant leader safeguarding Iraqi national interests. He has argued that this inclusion will help keep a balance between the group and the Sadrists. But few Iraqis are buying. Instead, many imagine Maliki is letting the two rivals go at it, while he awaits the outcome."

‘Unplug Companies That Help Iran and Syria Spy on Citizens’ (Bloomberg)

"The evidence forms a high stack. U.S., European and other companies are selling technologies that enable the repressive Iranian and Syrian regimes to disrupt and monitor the Internet and track down government critics, as documented in media reports, notably by Bloomberg News. On Monday, President Barack Obama acted. He issued an executive order giving the Treasury secretary the power to sanction individuals and companies that provide goods or services that can be used for such purposes. Those with assets in the U.S. risk having them blocked; individuals without such assets can be barred from entering the country. Perhaps the greatest penalty is the reputational cost of being placed on a U.S. sanctions list. The order is a powerful new tool. By covering direct and indirect sales, it addresses the excuses some companies have given when confronted with evidence of their wares in Iran and Syria. They can no longer hide behind claims that goods sold to a legitimate middleman were then resold without a company’s knowledge, as the U.S.-based Blue Coat Systems Inc. did after its technology was found filtering websites in Syria"

–Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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