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Israeli defense minister: Iran will go nuclear in ‘several years’

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said June 30 that Iran will successfully develop a nuclear weapon in "several years" if the international community doesn’t stop it. "In my judgment …  if nothing will be done about it, within several years Iran will turn nuclear," Barak said during his featured interview at the 2012 Aspen Ideas ...

JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages
JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages
JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said June 30 that Iran will successfully develop a nuclear weapon in "several years" if the international community doesn't stop it.

"In my judgment ...  if nothing will be done about it, within several years Iran will turn nuclear," Barak said during his featured interview at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, conducted by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

The estimate appeared more distant than other recent statements by top Israeli leaders. "They are getting there, and they are getting very, very close," Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said in March about Iran's nuclear clock.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said June 30 that Iran will successfully develop a nuclear weapon in "several years" if the international community doesn’t stop it.

"In my judgment …  if nothing will be done about it, within several years Iran will turn nuclear," Barak said during his featured interview at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, conducted by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

The estimate appeared more distant than other recent statements by top Israeli leaders. "They are getting there, and they are getting very, very close," Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said in March about Iran’s nuclear clock.

Barak repeated the Israeli government’s insistence that Israel reserves the right to strike Iran to prevent Iran from going nuclear, even without the cooperation or approval of the United States.

"We cannot afford delegating the decision even into the hands of our most trusted allies, which are you," he said to applause.

But he also said that there are no differences between U.S. and Israeli intelligence estimates on the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.

"Several years ago the [2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate] raised some questions. Now there are no differences between our intelligence," Barak said.

When asked by Friedman if U.S. President Barack Obama is a friend of Israel, Barak said, "Yes, clearly so."

Friedman also asked Barak why the Israeli government doesn’t just institute a new settlement freeze as a means of restarting the defunct peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Barak said that wasn’t going to happen.

"The Palestinians under Abu Mazen refused once and again to get into the room without a precondition… I believe that most of the responsibility is on their shoulders," he said.

Barak said he respects the Egyptian people’s decision to elect Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi as their new president and he expects the new Egyptian government to live up to all its international commitments, including the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. But he said that the new government could align itself with Hamas.

"Mubarak despised them. But the new regime might find some a certain kind of brotherhood and have a different kind of relationship (with Hamas)," he said. "A child cannot choose its parents; a country cannot choose its neighbors."

On Syria, Barak said that the U.S. needs to do more to push Assad from power more quickly, working with Russia and Turkey.

"The longer it stretches, the more chaotic the morning after will be," he said. "There is a need for American leadership, from wherever you choose to lead."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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