Speculation over a possible military strike on Iran by Israel continues as latest reports suggest Israeli Cabinet ministers previously opposed to attacking Iran have changed their minds.
Senior members of the Israeli government have reportedly backed the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, having been updated on Tehran’s secretive progress toward building a nuclear weapon, American sources told Fox television on Sunday.
Israeli President Shimon Peres reiterated Sunday that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely.
"The possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer to being applied than the application of a diplomatic option," Peres told the Israel Hayom daily.
The UN nuclear watchdog is expected to present evidence that Iran has worked on nuclear weapons, specifically accusing Tehran of developing computer models of a nuclear warhead.
Israeli media has been rife with talk of divisions in the government on the issue of a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Haaretz reported PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barack were seeking cabinet support for an attack.
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon opposed the move, arguing that international sanctions against Iran be given more time, and that the US should take the lead in any military operation.
A Haaretz’s opinion poll found 41 per cent of Israelis would support an attack while 39 per cent would oppose it, 20 per cent were undecided.
On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned against any military operations towards his country, saying Tehran will not allow any possible attacks.
“The US and Israel are trying to put the world together in a war against Iran, which has no nuclear weapons in its possession,” Russian ITAR-TASS news agency quotes the Iranian leader as saying in an interview to Egypt's Al-Akhbar newspaper. “Israel poses quite a bigger threat to the region, having in possession 300 nuclear warheads.”
However, Israel’s hawkishness may isolate it in a war-weary West. With NATO and US entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan and having blown billions on Libya, unleashing a military operation against a regional powerhouse looks unlikely.
Israel’s main ally, the US, is heavy on anti-Iran rhetoric but denies seeking to provoke any conflict.
Crucially though, US officials failed to secure a commitment from Israel that it would coordinate a strike against Tehran with Washington, AFP reported.
French FM Alain Juppe also addressed the issue, stating "Everything must be done to avoid the irreversible." "We have imposed sanctions that continue to expand, we can toughen them to put pressure on Iran," Juppe told Europe 1 radio. "We will continue on this path because a military intervention could create a situation that completely destabilizes the region."
Russia’s FM warned against attacking Iran, saying that the strike would be a serious mistake with unpredictable consequences. He underlined that there can be no military solutions to international conflicts.
“We get evidence of that every day when we see how problems around Iran are being solved: whether it’s in Iraq, or Afghanistan or what is happening in other countries in the region,” the minister said Monday.
But as focus turns to the IAEA report, Iran seems to be getting its defense in first.
The Iranian FM has already accused the agency of "political" behavior and labeled the report "baseless."
A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, appealed to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano not to defame the body by publishing “false” documents.
Anne Penketh of the British American Security Information Council believes that "Russia fears that ratcheting up the pressure" risks heading down the path to yet another war.
“Russia believes that diplomacy is the way to solve this crisis with Iran,” Penketh said. “My understanding is that this report aims to show that Iran has been working aspects which could only be related to a nuclear weapon. Now of course because of the Iraq precedent, when intelligence proved to be faulty, I think the burden of proof in this case is going to be much higher. And in fact my understanding is that the Russians and the Chinese were actually trying to persuade the IAEA Director General to postpone coming out with this report at this time.”
Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a Professor at the University of Tehran, however, is convinced that Israel does not have any military potential to resort to its threats, and the warnings of a possible attack have quite specific purposes.
“I think the intention is to put pressure on Iran and also to put pressure on other countries – independent countries like China and Russia and others – to agree with new sanctions by sort of portraying [Iran] as a mad dog, attack dog that needs to be somehow controlled, so that if they agree to new sanctions, something bad will be prevented from happening,” Marandi told RT. “There is a general trend to try to corner Iran," he added.
Commenting on the IAEA report on the Iran nuclear program due to be released, he questioned the legitimacy of the document.
“The whole report itself is based on forged documents,” Marandi told RT. “There is absolutely nothing new in the report. All the documents that are supposed to come out are from the year 2004 and before. And [former IAEA director Mohamed] ElBaradei’s assessment was completely in opposition to what the new head of the IAEA is making. All of these documents have been refuted in the past.”