‘Iran should be stopped by joint regional effort’

By TOVAH LAZAROFF

There is no way to secure the Middle East as long as Iran pursues nuclear weapons and engages in terror, Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon said on Thursday.

“Without confronting the Iranian regime, there is no way to stabilize Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon,” he said during a speech in Jerusalem at a conference organized by The Israel Project.

Ending the Iranian threat, Ya’alon said, “is a challenge for the stability of the Middle East and the entire world. By one way or another a nuclear Iran should be stopped.”

He added that Iran should feel as if it has to choose between continued pursuit of its nuclear program or its survival as a nation.

Tehran’s nuclear program should be halted by “a joint international regional effort since it does not threaten only Israel but the entire region,” he said, “and aspires to be a hegemonic power in the region and then a world power.”

These measures should include isolation and sanctions as well as support for forces in Iran that support democracy, modernization and freedom, he said. There must also be a “convincing and credible military option as a last resort,” Ya’alon added.

The vice premier said he fears Iran believes it does not need to worry about a military strike until 2013, because it does not think the US would attack prior to its presidential election in November.

Ya’alon spoke at the same time that a high-level delegation of Israelis and US officials held a joint strategic dialogue at the Foreign Ministry.

Among those who participated was US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who is in Israel and the Palestinian territories in advance of next week’s visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ya’alon told Reuters on Thursday that Iran would top the agenda during Clinton’s visit on July 15 and 16 – her first trip here in almost two years.

Western powers believe Iran is developing technology to build nuclear weapons and have imposed an increasingly tough regime of economic sanctions to make it reverse course. Iran insists its atomic program is peaceful and has shrugged off the latest round of sanctions, which include an EU embargo on Iranian crude oil taking full effect on July 1.

“We’ve witnessed the impact of the sanctions in Iran, but up until now the regime prefers to suffer rather than give up its military nuclear capabilities,” Ya’alon said. The time has come to introduce “really crippling sanctions,” he said, adding that the US should do more in this regard.

After the strategic meeting at the Foreign Ministry led by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, both Israel and the US issued a joint statement against Iran’s destabilizing actions and promotion of terror.

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