JERUSALEM — With Chuck Hagel scheduled to begin his first visit to Israel as secretary of defense on Sunday, Israeli defense and military officials issued explicit warnings this week that Israel was prepared and had the capability to carry out a lone military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat in an interview with the BBC broadcast on Thursday. Israel has “different vulnerabilities and different capabilities” than the United States, he said. “We have to make our own calculations, when we lose the capacity to defend ourselves by ourselves.”
Israeli officials have been expressing growing frustration with what they view as ineffective international efforts to halt what Israel and the West see as an Iranian quest for nuclear weapons. Despite economic sanctions and rounds of diplomatic talks, the officials say, the Iranian centrifuges continue to spin.
Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, intelligence, and international relations, said in an interview that Iran was abusing the diplomatic process to further its uranium enrichment program and that it was “high time” for the international community to issue Iran “a deadline or a timetable, or even a military threat.”
Iran, according to Steinitz, is about halfway to reaching the “red line” that Netanyahu drew on a cartoon-like diagram of a bomb before the United Nations last fall, representing the amount of medium-enriched uranium Iran would need to build a bomb. Iran has denied that it intends to build a nuclear weapon and has argued that it needs the enriched uranium for energy and medical uses.
The chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, on Thursday dismissed Israel’s threats as bluster that should not be taken seriously. Speaking on the sidelines of the Army Day parade in Tehran, he added that the United States, deterred by Iran’s military might, would not enter into war with Iran, according to the state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency.