As the Iran nuclear deal continues to dominate international headlines, shock waves of sorts have been reverberating in Israel after it was revealed that recordings had been released by former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak in which alleged plans to strike Iran in the past had been graphically discussed.
On Monday, an unnamed Israeli senior security official told Walla news that his country’s military is more prepared now than in previous years to conduct a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities should the orders be handed down to do so.
The official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter said, “Every year that passes, the IDF improves. We never stand still. The professional level increases. In the coming year we will receive another submarine, F-35 fighter jets and other platforms. Intelligence is improving as well.”
Moreover, the official also noted that capabilities to defend Israel against possible retaliatory strikes emanating from Iran were in a constant state of development.
The actual possibility of a strike on Iran becoming a reality at this juncture looks highly unlikely according to the report on the news site as such plans have been put on permanent hold in recent years. The report also said that a reversal of such a decision would not occur without a paradigm shift in the political landscape or a stark escalation in the progress made by Iran’s nuclear program
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot instructed his deputy, Major General Yair Golan, to reevaluate the military’s plans in light of the accord and adapt them to recent developments, according to the Walla web site.
According to the released recordings, claims were made by Barak that both he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had leaned towards initiating an attack on Iran in 2010 but former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said there was no viability plan for such an operation. In 2011, plans for an Iran attack were shot down by MKs Moshe Ya’alon and Yuval Steinitz. A planned 2012 strike on Iran was abruptly cancelled because the time of the proposed attack happened to coincide with a joint Israel-US military exercise and Israel did not want to the US to even be tangentially involved according to reports.
The Times of Israel reported that Israel’s Channel 2 said that “anger” at the former defense minister’s statements was widespread among the Israeli leadership, and that numerous senior political and security officials were also privately intimating that Barak’s version of events was not entirely accurate.
On other related matters, while American lawmakers continue to grapple with the polemical details of the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran in the days prior to the vote to be taken on it in both chambers of Congress, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that the UN nuclear watchdog group is running out of funds for mandatory inspections of Iranian facilities.
Member states of the international body will need to cough up more than $10 million a year to monitor the proposed deal, said IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. He added that funds are dwindling for expenses related to inspections.
Thus far, costs for its Iran activities have been met through extra-budgetary contributions from member states. But Amano said the 800,000 euros ($924,000) per month the agency receives to verify current Iran nuclear agreements would be exhausted by the end of next month, according to a Reuters report.
The IAEA will need an additional 160,000 euros per month in the run-up to the implementation of the agreement which could happen in the first half of next year. Once it is implemented, the agency will need an annual 9.2 million euros ($10.6 million) to ensure verification of the deal.
"The extra-budgetary contributions which we have previously received for this purpose will be exhausted by the end of September," he said.
After a protracted series of talks, Iran and six world powers including the United States reached a broad agreement in July in which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program, including periodic inspections, in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
Under the deal, the IAEA will be responsible for determining the protocol and carrying out the inspections of Iranian nuclear sites.
Amano said the agency will need substantially more analysts, inspectors and new equipment to fulfill its role under last month's deal. It currently has around 4-8 inspectors on the ground in Iran at any one point, according to a Reuters report.
The IAEA has come under pressure, particularly from Republicans in Congress for not disclosing a roadmap agreement with Iran which it signed alongside the July deal to resolve concerns about PMD. Iran continues to assert that its nuclear program will be used exclusively for energy production.
CNN reported that Amano said the IAEA was ready to undertake the additional work resulting from the agreement and has the expertise needed to do so, with what is planned representing "a very robust verification mechanism in Iran."
"There is now a historic opportunity to resolve the Iran nuclear issue. I hope that full use will be made of this opportunity," Amano said.
Also on Tuesday, the IAEA said that it received substantive amounts of information from Iran aimed at quelling concerns its nuclear past had military elements, although it was too early to say whether any of it is new, according to published reports.
In mid-August, Iran finally delivered on its commitment to send details of the possible military aspects of its nuclear program to the U.N. nuclear watchdog after incessantly stonewalling attempts by the agency to conduct a thorough investigation of their facilities.
"At this stage it is premature to say if there is any new information or not... We are now analyzing it," Amano said. "It could be even misleading to provide a partial assessment."
Under the deal between Tehran and six world powers reached on July 14, sanctions relief for Iran hinges on IAEA reports on its past and present nuclear program.
Reza Najafi, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, declined to explain whether IAEA inspectors would be allowed to inspect Iran's Parchin military site. Iran has admitted to nuclear detonator testing in the past at the site and recently satellite evidence has indicated the regime is carrying out "clean-up" activity.
Amano, who said he would be available for a third term to head the IAEA beyond 2017, said the verification deal with Iran would not serve as "precedent" for weaker standards, but repeatedly declined to answer questions on any details, according to published reports.
"This is the most robust safeguard regime in the current world," Amano said.
On yet more related matters, it was reported on Tuesday that a senior Iranian official has reiterated that Iran views the annihilation of the State of Israel as its most central foreign policy, despite warming relations with western powers, according to an INN report.
Speaking before reporters in Tehran, Hossein Sheikholeslam, the Iranian Parliament Speaker's Adviser for International Affairs made these comments during which he also attacked the British Foreign Secretary for suggesting Iran's hostility towards Israel had softened since the nuclear deal, according to the report.
"Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan," Sheikholeslam said Tuesday, according to the semi-official Fars News.
He was responding to an interview given by UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond following the reopening of the British embassy in Tehran, during which Hammond claimed the current Iranian regime was displaying a "more nuanced" approach towards the Jewish state than previous ones.
"What we're looking for is behavior from Iran, not only towards Israel but towards other players in the region, that slowly rebuilds their sense that Iran is not a threat to them," Hammond added.
Sheikholeslam also rebuffed Hammond's call for past hostilities between Iran and Britain to be forgotten, retorting that Iran ""will never forget the past and Britain's colonialist moves."