Israel Mum on Iranian Threats, Missiles

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Israel was keeping a low profile on Tuesday over the Iranian test firing earlier this week of missiles that could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

On Sunday and Monday, the Iranian military test launched Shihab-3 and Sajjil missiles with a range capable of reaching Israel, U.S. forces in the Middle East and parts of Europe, as part of a war games exercise.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the missile exercise "provocative". It comes just three days before the U.S. and other Western nations are due to sit down with Tehran to discuss its nuclear development program.

Israel declined to react to the missile test as well as to the upcoming meeting between the West and Iran. It was also silent on Iran's revelation that it had a secret underground uranium enrichment facility in Qom.

Iran Buying Time for Nuke Developent?

Israeli missile expert Uzi Rubin, who is the former head of Israel's anti-ballistic missile program, told CBN News that the test launch was arranged well in advance of the start of the meeting with the E-3 plus three (Britain, France, Germany, U.S., Russia and China) on Thursday in Geneva.

But the question is why they didn't cancel the exercise, Rubin said. In other words, "they didn't unclench their fist," ahead of the meeting, he said.

The head of Iran's nuclear program Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tuesday that Iran would not discuss anything related to its "nuclear rights." But it is ready to discuss disarmament and non-proliferation.

Iranian expert Menash Amir said Iran's proposals for the talks were part of a package that Tehran sent earlier to the international forum, which also included topics like the economic situation, moral issues, and the reorganization of international organizations but not Iran's nuclear development.

"Iran is continuing to try to gain time" for nuclear development, Amir told CBN News.

New Sanctions on Iran 

The U.S. was said on Tuesday to be preparing new sanctions on Iran including in energy, financial and telecommunications.

Amir said that the U.S. and Europeans believe that they have a chance of success in exercising international sanctions against Iran. In the past Russia and China - veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members -- have been uncooperative in enforcing sanctions.

International sanctions could only be effective against Iran if they are tough enough and applied seriously. Otherwise the U.S. and Israel would have to consider the military option, Amir said.

Will Israel Bomb Iran?

There has been speculation for years that Israel is preparing to bomb Iran's nuclear sites as it bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.

Israel has refrained from making outright threats to bomb Iran's nuclear sites and tried to convince the international community that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the world not just to Israel. But Israel has said that it cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran.

According to an article in Britain's Daily Express British Intelligence chief Sir John Scarlett was informed that Saudi Arabia would allow Israel to bomb Iran's new nuclear site. Earlier, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said that Saudi Arabia would allow Israel to use its airspace to carry out an attack on Iran.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in Britain this week for talks with senior British officials. The Defense Ministry said that it did not have his agenda but press reports said he would be talking with the officials about Iran.

Three Options on Western-Iranian Talks

Yaakov Katz, military correspondent for the Jerusalem Post wrote in Tuesday's edition that Israel would have to decide by the spring of 2010 whether it would carry out a military strike or allow Iran to continue its nuclear development.

He said there are three options for the upcoming Western-Iranian talks:  the talks fail and the international community imposes tough sanctions on Iran in which case Israel would have to wait to see if they work; the U.S. makes a deal with Iran, which puts Israel in a bind; or the talks fail and there are no sanctions and then Israel would have to decide what to do by next spring.

In an earlier interview, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told CBN News that Israel would have to decide how to proceed by the end of the year if international sanctions fail.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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