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ISRAEL WARNS IRAN

Strategic Affairs Minister Lieberman: 'If All Other Efforts Fail To Stop Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons, Israel Has Capabilities To Cope On Its Own'

'Economic Sanctions Are More Effective Than Iranians Pretend'

'Israeli Arabs Rejection Of Jewish State Is A Strategic Threat to Israel'

The Iranian Nuclear Reactor

Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that Israel has the capabilities to go it alone against the Iranian nuclear threat if left on its own. Lieberman was addressing a closed door session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee. At the same time, he called for harsher sanctions saying they could dissuade Tehran from continuing its nuclear weapons program.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

'If Israel is left alone to face an Iranian nuclear threat, it has the capabilities to cope with it' - that declaration came today from Avigdor Lieberman, the cabinet minister for Strategic Affairs.  

For the first time ever, a senior Israeli official has warned Iran in no uncertain terms that the Jewish state will take action if Iran develops nuclear weapons. The blunt speaking Lieberman did not say military capability but that was obviously what he meant. Until now, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his predecessor Ariel Sharon have stopped short of such a direct warning. They simply said Israel would not tolerate Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons after President Ahmadinejad declared his intention to wipe Israel off the map. At the same time, Lieberman stressed there are other possibilities. He said the economic sanctions on Iran were proving to be ' effective'. Iran was not North Korea being more vulnerable to sanctions. Iran's business community is very centralized and it was shocked by the American restrictions on  its banking facilities. The whole Iranian economy was run by only fifty to sixty families who controlled monopolies. To restrict their foreign travel and reduce their markets would create pressure for a regime change in Tehran. Lieberman stressed that the sanctions must be focused and Iran, although conducting an effective psychological warfare, was more vulnerable than it would admit. 

The Iranian economy was ' terrible'. The official rate of unemployment was said to be 15% to 20% but it was really much higher. Each year, one million five- hundred thousand students graduate but without any job offers. Sixty per cent of Iranians live in abject poverty and this was reflected in 3 million drug addicts and 90,000 prostitutes. Lieberman noted that sanctions could decimate 70% of Iran's foreign trade that is conducted with Western Europe, Japan and the Gulf states. The cabinet minister also warned that if Iran were permitted to acquire nuclear weapons ' it would trigger an insane nuclear race in the Middle East. The Arab world is closely monitoring Iran and would follow suit'.

Just back from a trip to Moscow, Lieberman said he was encouraged by his talks with Russian officials.

For its part, the current Israeli government has invested more in facing the Iranian threat than any of its predecessors. Lieberman is to chair a new Strategic Affairs ministry similar to that of the Homeland Command in the U.S. that was set up after the terror attacks on 9/11.

On another question, the cabinet minister took issue with Israel's Arab citizens. Their ' Monitoring Committee' has published an official document saying they will never accept Israel as a Jewish state. Lieberman called this a 'strategic threat to the state of Israel that must unite all Zionist parties'.

Lieberman, leader of the far right coalition partner ' Israel Our Home', concluded that Israel is now  the focal point of the 'Clash of Civilizations Between The West & Radical Islam'. 

David Essing

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