Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak both stressed the extent of the Iranian nuclear threat in speeches to the graduates of Israel’s National Security College yesterday. Netanyahu said, “We are galvanising the international community to hard, heavy pressure against Iran, and are committed to doing anything we can to stop it from becoming nuclear.” Meanwhile Barak hinted at the possibility of direct Israeli actions against Iran’s nuclear facilities, referring to the “difficulties and the complexities involved in thwarting Iran’s reaching nuclear arms,” but stressing that, “dealing with that same [Iranian nuclear] threat once it ripens, if it ripens, will be vastly more complicated, dangerous and exacting in human lives and resources.”
The comments followed reports yesterday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had boasted of expanding Iran’s enrichment programme. According to Iranian state media, Ahmadinejad claimed Iran now has more than 11,000 functioning centrifuges enriching uranium, a thousand more than reported by the IAEA in May. Some Iranian hardliners are also now also calling for uranium to be enriched up to 60%, bringing Iran closer to weapons-grade material of approximately 90%. Iranian MP Abolqassem Jarareh claimed earlier this week that Iran should have this grade for powering commercial ships, though Iran has no viable programme for building nuclear-powered ships.
Meanwhile Iran caused more anger yesterday when its UN ambassador Mohammad Khazaee accused Israel of responsibility for the bombing in Bulgaria last week which killed five Israelis. Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Haim Waxman responded that, “These comments are appalling, but not surprising from the same government that says the 9/11 attack was a conspiracy theory and denies the Holocaust.” Israel believes that Hezbollah carried out the attack.