An Israeli Cabinet minister yesterday said if its arch-enemy Iran chooses to continue pursuing a nuclear program it will face a "military" answer, escalating tension in the region. Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz was responding yesterday to the Iranian nuclear chief's warning that the Islamic Republic's program stands ready to build advanced centrifuges and further enrich uranium.
Iran's nuclear chief said yesterday he hopes Tehran's landmark atomic deal with world powers will survive President Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S. from it, warning the Islamic Republic's program stands ready to build advanced centrifuges and further enrich uranium.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Ali Akbar Salehi stressed Iran would be guided by "prudence and wisdom" when weighing whether to abandon the deal if European nations fail to protect it from Trump.
The U.S. withdrawal from the deal already has badly shaken Iran's anemic economy, crashing its currency, the rial. That likely will be compounded by U.S. sanctions coming in November that threaten Iran's oil exports, a major source of government funding.
All this puts further pressure on the administration of Iran's relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, to whom Salehi reports as one of his vice presidents. But Salehi dismissed out of hand the idea of caving to American demands to renegotiate the accord. "Yes, we have our problems. Yes, the sanctions have caused some problems for us. But if a nation decides to enjoy political independence, it will have to pay the price," Salehi said. "If Iran decides today to go back to what it was before, the lackey of the United States, the situation would" be different.
Israel has taken unilateral action in the past without the consent of its major ally, the United States, including air strikes on a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 and in Iraq in 1981. A strike against Iran, however, would be a risky venture with the potential to provoke a counter strike and roil financial markets.
Israel sees in Iran's regional expansion an attempt to open up new fronts against it. Since 2013, Iran has increased its military presence in Syria and deployed hundreds of its special operation troops. Iran has helped the Assad regime throughout the war, dispatching thousands of soldiers, mobilizing the Lebanon-based Shiite Hezbollah group and delivering millions of dollars to the regime, despite its troubled economy hurt by international sanctions. Since the Syria war broke out, Israel had been silently carrying out aerial strikes in Syria, mainly targeting regime and Iranian bases. Israel seems very determined to erase the Iranian presence, as it openly informed the media about the aerial operations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier said Israel would attack Iran's "proxies" wherever they are in Syria.