Category Archives: Iran

Iran’s Non-Existent Nuke Program: Interview with Gareth Porter

Editor’s Note: Gareth Porter is an investigative journalist and historian who specialises on the Iranian nuclear issue. His latest book is ‘Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare‘. The below interview was recorded over two weeks ago. 

Thirty-five years after Iranian hostage crisis, aftershocks remain

Stephen Kinzer, author of The Brothers, writes for The Boston Globe:

‘Jimmy Carter has called Nov. 4 “a date I will never forget.” Other Americans may not remember the date, but as a nation we are still captive to the humiliating trauma that began unfolding precisely 35 years ago during Carter’s presidency. At 10:30 on the morning of Nov. 4, 1979, several hundred young Iranians climbed the walls of the American embassy in Tehran and stormed inside. By early afternoon, they had captured, blindfolded, and handcuffed dozens of American citizens and diplomats, including 52 who would remain in their hands for 444 days. Thus began a crisis that may now be seen as one of the crucial events in the modern history of both the United States and the Middle East.

Plenty has happened in the intervening decades to give Iran and the United States reason to mistrust each other. Each country has blamed the other for fomenting terror in the Middle East, and each has violently attacked the other’s vital interests. Yet when I recently asked one lifelong Washington insider to explain why the American political class remains so obsessed with isolating and punishing Iran, he immediately replied, “It all goes back to the hostage crisis.” The emotional legacy of that episode has proven astonishingly long-lasting.’

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Hawks Triumph in Senate; Will Push More Aggressive US Policy

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, but much more important than which party took control is the nature of the incoming Senators from the new ruling party.

It’s not an influx of Tea Party members, reluctant to waste US funds on overseas adventures and suspicious of federal power, but rather a series of hawks in the model of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) that seized the reins of power last night.

The new senators are typified by Jodi Ernst (R – IA) and Tom Cotton (R – AR), who campaigned heavy on escalating the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria, as well as being more hawkish at essentially every opportunity.”

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Iranian Photojournalist Reportedly Detained After Covering Protest Against Acid Attacks

Robert Mackey reports for The New York Times:

‘An Iranian photojournalist was reported to have been detained on Friday, two days after his images of protesters deploring acid attacks on women in the city of Isfahan were published by news organizations around the world.

[…] Mr. Jafari had covered the demonstration on Wednesday outside the gates of a local judiciary office for the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency, which still features 20 of his images on its website. His photographs were also distributed internationally by Getty Images.’

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The U.S. Government War Against Reporter James Risen

Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler write for The Nation:

‘Ever since New York Times reporter James Risen received his first subpoena from the Justice Department more than six years ago, occasional news reports have skimmed the surface of a complex story. The usual gloss depicts a conflict between top officials who want to protect classified information and a journalist who wants to protect confidential sources. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sterling—a former undercover CIA officer now facing charges under the Espionage Act, whom the feds want Risen to identify as his source—is cast as a disgruntled ex-employee in trouble for allegedly spilling the classified beans.

But the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of US foreign policy. The recent announcement of Eric Holder’s resignation as attorney general has come after nearly five years of the Obama administration extending and intensifying the use of the Justice Department for retribution against investigative journalism and whistleblowing.’

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Iran says nuclear suspicions are ‘fabricated ambiguities’

Frederik Dahl reports for Reuters:

‘Iran dismissed on Tuesday as “fabricated ambiguities” suspicions that it has carried out nuclear arms research, a day after it came under renewed Western pressure to help clear up U.N. watchdog concerns about its atomic energy program. Addressing an annual meeting of the 162-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), senior official Behrouz Kamalvandi also said Iran was committed to trying to reach a negotiated solution to its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

“However, measures such as sanctions or double standard approaches certainly harm the negotiating process and cause further mistrust,” Kamalvandi, vice chairman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said. He urged world powers – which resumed talks with Iran in New York last week – to take “constructive and realistic approaches” and fully respect Iran’s nuclear rights in order to end what he called an “unnecessary” crisis.’

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Iranian FM: US ‘obsessed’ with sanctions against Tehran

AFP reports:

‘Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the United States of being “obsessed” with sanctions against his country, on the eve of new bilateral talks on a nuclear deal.

“We are committed to resolving this issue,” Zarif told a Washington think-tank, but he argued the US was “infatuated” with sanctions and Congress was objecting to any deal “because they would have to lift the sanctions.”

“Iran has shown that we will live up to every agreement,” Zarif argued at a discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, just hours before the Iranian delegation was to meet in New York with US counterparts for fresh talks.’

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Israeli envoy: Nuclear Iran ‘a thousand times’ more dangerous than Islamic State

Ron Kampeas reports for The Times of Israel:

‘Saying a nuclear Iran would be a “thousand times” greater threat to the world than the Islamic State, Israel’s ambassador to the United States warned against including Iran in any coalition to derail the jihadist group.

Ron Dermer, speaking Wednesday to guests at a pre-Rosh Hashanah reception at his residence in suburban Maryland, also cautioned the US against accommodating Iran during the current effort to degrade IS.His urgent tone was the latest sign of a split between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over how to deal with Iran’s role in stopping IS, which is seizing swaths of Iraq and Syria.’

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The Geopolitics of World War III

Netanyahu suggested pitting ISIS against Iran

Michael Wilner reported for The Jerusalem Post in late June:

‘Threatening a borderless conflict between “extremist Shi’ites,” funded by leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and equally extreme Sunnis— a soft “alliance” between ISIS and al Qaeda— the Israeli prime minister suggested the United States should largely stay out of the fight, and instead allow the parties to weaken one another.

“Don’t strengthen either of them. Weaken both,” Netanyahu said.’

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Editor’s Note: What Netanyahu suggested is something a lot like the eight year blood bath that was the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s, a war which cost Iraq 500,000 lives and Iran over 750,000. Israel played a secret role by selling $75 million worth of weapons to Iran during Operation Seashell in 1981. The following year the United States started providing Iraq with weapons after Ronald Reagan removed them from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Everyone remembers the famous when Rumsfeld met Saddam moment from 1983. It’s a very dirty game and clearly the same kind of thinking still exists today, let your enemies kill each other while you sit back and enjoy the show. You can watch a documentary on the Iran-Iraq War here.

‘No plans’ for U.S. military coordination with Iran against Islamic State

Lazar Berman and AFP report:

The United States said Friday it has “no plans” for any military coordination with Iran in the fight against Islamic State fighters operating in Iraq and Syria “We are not going to coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran and have no plans to do so,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, reacting to reports that Tehran had approved such an arrangement.

Harf said that Washington was “open to engaging” with Iran as it had in the past on select issues, notably on Afghanistan in late 2001, when the two sides worked to put Hamid Karzai into power after the fall of the Taliban. “But we will not be coordinating our action together,” she added. The BBC earlier reported, citing unnamed sources in Tehran, that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved cooperation with the US in the fight against Islamic State. But Iran’s foreign ministry said the report was not correct.’

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New Sanctions Threaten Iran Nuclear Deal

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj writes for Lobe Log:

‘On Aug. 29 the US Treasury added 28 Iranian individuals and entities to its ever-expanding sanctions list. Expectedly, Tehran denounced the decision. “They are in conflict with the spirit of talks. They are unconstructive in my opinion,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during an Aug. 30 news conference broadcast on State TV. “We should resist such an aggression with all might and power,” he said. “We consider some of the sanctions crimes against humanity.”

This is not the first time the United States has imposed sanctions on Iran since the historic interim nuclear deal achieved between Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China plus Germany) in November 2013, but Rouhani’s words mark a shift in Iran’s reaction. The Iranian president spent considerable time decrying the sanctions in a harsher tone than ever before. Rouhani was sending a message to the United States.

US sanctions on Iran, which have been consistently expanded by Congress and executive orders since 1997, have become so byzantine that they are hindering the activities of countless businesses, Iranian or multinational. The net of financial sanctions has been crafted with such a tight mesh that even harmless, routine trade is constrained and sanctioned.’

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Iran displays Israeli drone allegedly shot down near nuclear facility

The Jerusalem Post/Reuters reports:

‘The Iranian media released footage Monday of the Israeli spy drone it claimed to have shot down Sunday as it was heading for its Natanz nuclear enrichment site. The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed Monday that it was working to extract intelligence and data from the drone’s remains. According to an Iranian military official, the drone was a Hermes model with a combat radius of 800 kilometers.

IRGC’s Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency as saying that some of the parts of the downed aircraft are working, “and our experts are studying the information and intelligence of these parts. We are now analyzing the information of this plane. The downed aircraft was of the stealth, radar-evasive type and it intended to penetrate the off-limits nuclear area in Natanz … but was targeted by a ground-to-air missile before it managed to enter the area,” state news agency ISNA said, citing a statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.’

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Nabucco: Iran to provide Europe with alternative to Russian gas?

World Bulletin reports:

Iran to provide Europe with alternative to Russian gasAs the Ukraine crisis puts Russia and Europe at odds, leaving Europe with no choice but to search for alternative natural gas resources, Iran looks likely to fulfill Europe’s demand.

Iran’s deputy oil minister Ali Mejidi has indicated that the Nabucco Project, which was presented as an alternative to Russian gas with the potential of fulfilling a large proportion of Europe’s need before being put on hold last year, is now back on track. Speaking to Russian press, Mejidi confirmed that two separate delegations were sent to Europe. “With Nabucco, Iran can provide Europe with gas. We are the best alternative to Russia,” he said.

Mejidi also said that though a number of routes to deliver the gas to Europe were being considered, Turkey was the “right address.” The Nabucco project, which was first presented in 2002, plans to pump gas to Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. The project will also pump 31 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani and Iraqi natural gas to Europe.

Iran Denies Media Reports on $20 billion Oil Deal with Russia

Tasnim News Agency reports:

putin iran‘Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister for International and Trade Affairs denied the recent media reports on a $20-billion oil deal between Tehran and Moscow. Ali Majedi said reports carried by some foreign media about Russia signing a $20- billion agreement to purchase Iranian oil are incorrect. Moscow and Tehran signed a five-year memorandum of understanding on Monday aimed at boosting bilateral economic cooperation.

Later, the Reuters News Agency claimed that it included an oil-for-goods agreement worth up to $20 billion which would see Moscow buy Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. Meanwhile the White House has said such a deal would raise “serious concerns” and would be inconsistent with the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran.

US Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen on Thursday said Washington may introduce sanctions against Russian companies due to the recently signed oil deal between Moscow and Tehran. Cohen added that Washington had warned Russia against such a deal under the threat of additional US sanctions.’

Remember when the U.S. shot down Iran Air Flight 655?

Oil-producing Iran looks to solar power

Ali Akbar Dareini reports for the Associated Press:

‘President Hassan Rouhani’s government has quintupled its spending on solar power projects in the last year, taking advantage of Iran’s 300-odd days of sunshine a year that make its vast sun-kissed lands one of the best spots on earth to host solar panels. While being good for the environment, the panels also offer rural Iran steady power amid uncertainty over the country’s contested nuclear program as it negotiates with world powers.

And as the Islamic Republic cuts back on subsidies that once made gasoline cheaper than bottled mineral water, a push toward self-sustaining solar power could help the government save money and bolster its sanctions-battered economy. “A big change is in the making in Iran,” said Saman Mirhadi, a senior official in charge of solar projects. Iran, home to some 77 million people, is a fossil-fuel powerhouse, even in the crude-oil rich Middle East. It is home to both the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and massive natural gas reserves. However, sanctions have cut into the country’s refining and production capabilities.’

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US considers talks with Iran on Iraq security

From BBC News:

Map ‘Washington is considering direct talks with Iran on the security situation in Iraq, a US official has told the BBC. The move comes as US President Barack Obama weighs up options on action to take in Iraq… While the US and Iran are old adversaries, both have an interest in curbing the growing threat posed by ISIS and both are considering military support to the Iraqi government, says the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Washington.

The US is said to be considering direct discussions with Tehran which could even take place as early as this week. The two countries are due to hold the latest round of talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in Vienna. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said he will consider co-operation if the US takes action in Iraq.

The USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier is already being deployed to the Gulf, accompanied by two more warships. But Washington says no US troops will be deployed on the ground. The US has also announced it is increasing security at its embassy in Baghdad and relocating some staff to safer areas. Meanwhile, there are reports that more than 130 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in Iraq to provide training and advice.’

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Iran’s plan to double its population

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

‘Another challenge to be faced by bioethics in the decades ahead is the downstream consequences of falling birth rates. Once fertility begins to fall, it keeps falling to levels which once seemed (sorry) inconceivable. The replacement birth rate is 2.1 children per woman. But in South Korea, parts of Spain, and Russia it has fallen below 1.3. At that rate, population begins to decline fairly rapidly. A small population could have big political consequences.

This worries the leaders of Iran. The birth rate in Iran has fallen more swiftly than anywhere else in the world – from 6.4 in 1986 to a current low of 1.8. When they look into their crystal ball, they see a weak and depopulated nation. This is why the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently released a 14-point plan to reverse decades of propaganda for small families and double his country’s population to 150 million. His proposals include: increasing the birth rate to more than 2.3; lowering the age of marriage; an Islamic-Iranian lifestyle and opposing undesirable aspects of the Western lifestyle; and providing treatment for both male and female infertility.’

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Former top Iranian terrorist living under CIA protection in U.S., new book claims

Jeff Stein writes for Newsweek:

‘The senior former Iranian intelligence officer who quarterbacked the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut and killed scores of Americans was recently living under CIA protection in the United States, a book being published Tuesday says. Ali Reza Asgari was given asylum by the George W. Bush administration in 2007 after he defected in Turkey, according to The Good Spy, a biography of Robert Ames, a legendary CIA officer who was among those killed in the embassy bombing. In all, 63 people died, 17 of them Americans, including seven other CIA officers. Ames, who had been the agency’s Beirut station chief, was visiting the embassy as the CIA’s top Middle East analyst.

Asgari, a top commander of Iran’s shadowy Revolutionary Guards force in Lebanon, “remains in the United States, probably living under a CIA agent-protection program,” according to the book’s author, Kai Bird, who a shared Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2006 for his book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The CIA did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment over the weekend, but on Monday evening flatly denied it had aided and abetted Asgari’s defection and resettlement.’

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John Bolton: Forget Syria, Pursue Regime Change in Iran

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

John-BoltonJohn Bolton is confused. After spending years berating the Obama administration for failing to take action in Syria’s bloody civil war, he has come out against such an intervention…kind of.

In a piece in the New York Post, Bolton criticizes the administration for “vacillating for three years on whether to arm ‘moderate’ opposition forces, by failing to uphold his ‘red line’ on chemical weapons and by indulging in rhetoric unaccompanied by action.” At the same time, he is coming out of the closet as against supporting the rebels or bombing Damascus: “Washington’s ability to affect the outcome in Syria is decidedly limited; aiding the rebels mainly increases the chances of an al Qaeda regime in Damascus — hardly preferable to the current bloodshed.”

Bravo! This is what non-interventionists have been saying since the beginning. But then, Bolton’s piece trades restraint in Syria for overthrowing the Iranian regime.

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Iran Enters Next Stage of Nuclear Talks: Interview with Gareth Porter

‘Historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter discusses how fabricated documents from Israel should not be seen as proof of Iran’s desire to weaponize.’ (The Real News)

Iran to Pakistan: Beware of ‘hands’ sowing rift between us

From the Daily Times:

‘Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on Monday lambasted the US and ‘some other states’ for their attempts to create rift between Iran and Pakistan. “There are hands at work that intend to cause differences between the two friendly and intimate nations through different methods, including stirring insecurity at the lengthy common borders. We shouldn’t allow the big opportunity existing for the expansion of the relations between the two countries to be lost,” Khamenei told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a meeting. He underlined the need for further development of ties between the two countries and laid special importance on the implementation of joint ventures, like Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. ‘

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Syria: Iran and Assad have won, say top Tehran foreign policy figures

Simon Tisdall reports for The Guardian:

Photograph: Uncredited/APIran and its close ally President Bashar al-Assad have won the war inSyria, and the US-orchestrated campaign in support of the opposition’s attempt to topple the Syrian regime has failed, senior Iranian officials have told the Guardian. In a series of interviews in Tehran, top figures who shape Iranian foreign policy said the west’s strategy in Syria had merely encouraged radicals, caused chaos and ultimately backfired, with government forces now on the front foot. We have won in Syria,” said Alaeddin Borujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee and an influential government insider. “The regime will stay. The Americans have lost it.”

Terrorism perpetrated by al-Qaida-linked jihadist groups and individuals armed and funded by Sunni Muslim Arab countries was now the main threat facing the Syrian people, Borujerdi said. Many foreign fighters who had travelled to Syria from Britain and other European countries could soon return. “We are worried about the future security of Europe,” he said. “We won the game in Syria easily,” said Amir Mohebbian, a conservative strategist and government adviser. “The US does not understand Syria. The Americans wanted to replace Assad, but what was the alternative? All they have done is encourage radical groups and made the borders less safe. “We accept the need for change in Syria – but gradually. Otherwise, there is chaos,” Mohebbian added.’

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Iran President Rouhani urges equal rights for women

From BBC News:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (second right) at a forum to mark Women's Day in Iran, 20 April 2014Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has urged equal opportunities and rights for men and women, and condemned sexual discrimination. In a speech marking Women’s Day, Mr Rouhani criticised “those who consider women’s presence society as a threat” and said Iran still had “a long way to go” to ensure gender equality. Mr Rouhani, a religious moderate, was elected to office in June 2013. Foreign activist groups argue that Iran’s laws discriminate against women.

Speaking on Sunday at the National Forum on Women Shaping Economy and Culture in Tehran, Mr Rouhani said: “We will not accept the culture of sexual discrimination.”  “Women must enjoy equal opportunity, equal protection and equal social rights,” he said in comments that were broadcast live on television. “According to the Islamic rules, man is not the stronger sex and woman is not the weaker one,” he said.

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Tehran – the secret party town

From The Guardian’s Tehran Bureau:

Tehran after darkThe streets of Tehran turn deceptively quiet after midnight, but one anomalous corner in the affluent part of the city offers a rare glimpse of what goes on between four walls. In contrast to the deserted sidewalks and shopfronts lining Tehran’s boulevards, the block around the late-night grocery store Super Jordan buzzes with activity. Traffic is denser here, as drivers line up behind Porsches and Mercedes Benzes whose owners swerve in and out of lanes, either because they are drunk or because they can. While a strictly enforced law compels other shopkeepers to close by midnight, Super Jordan stays open through the wee hours, monopolizing late-night refreshment sales. It is rumored that the owner has exquisite connections to the municipal government; in any case, shoppers in various stages of inebriation complete their purchases without police intervention.

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The Iranian Threat That Never Was: Another Manufactured Crisis

Sheldon Richman writes for CounterPunch:

If you take politicians and the mainstream media seriously, you believe that Iran wants a nuclear weapon and has relentlessly engaged in covert efforts to build one. Even if you are aware that Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, you may believe that those who run the Islamic Republic have cleverly found ways to construct a nuclear-weapons industry almost undetected. Therefore, you may conclude, Democratic and Republican administrations have been justified in pressuring Iran to come clean and give up its “nuclear program.” But you would be wrong.

Anyone naturally skeptical about such foreign-policy alarms has by now found solid alternative reporting that debunks the official narrative about the alleged Iranian threat. Much of that reporting has come from Gareth Porter, the journalist and historian associated with Inter Press Service. Porter has done us the favor of collecting the fruits of his dogged investigative journalism into a single comprehensive and accessible volume, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

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CNN continues to point at Iranians in disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370

Iraq and Iran trigger global spike in executions

From BBC News:

A nooseA sharp rise in the number of people put to death in Iraq and Iran caused a global spike in executions in 2013, Amnesty International says. The human rights group annual review of the death penalty found a jump of almost 15% compared with 2012. China is thought to execute the most people, although the exact number of executions there is kept secret.

Elsewhere, at least 778 executions are known to have been carried out in 2013, compared with 682 in 2012. At least 369 people were killed in Iran while Iraq saw a stark rise in its executions, with 169 being killed. “The virtual killing sprees we saw in countries like Iran and Iraq were shameful,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

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Netanyahu orders IDF to prepare for possible strike on Iran during 2014

Barak Ravid reports of Haaretz:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have ordered the army to continue preparing for a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities at a cost of at least 10 billion shekels ($2.89 billion) this year, despite the talks between Iran and the West, according to recent statements by senior military officers. Three Knesset members who were present at Knesset joint committee hearings on Israel Defense Forces plans that were held in January and February say they learned during the hearings that 10 billion shekels to 12 billion shekels of the defense budget would be allocated this year for preparations for a strike on Iran, approximately the same amount that was allocated in 2013.

Some MKs asked the army’s deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and planning directorate official Brig. Gen. Agai Yehezkel whether they felt there was justification for investing so much money in those preparations, said the MKs present at the meetings, who asked that their names be withheld because of the sensitivity of the issue. They said some lawmakers also asked whether the interim agreement reached between Iran and the six powers in November 2013, and the ongoing negotiations for a full nuclear accord, had caused any change in the IDF’s preparations. The IDF representatives said the army had received a clear directive from government officials from the political echelon – meaning Netanyahu and Ya’alon – to continue readying for a possible independent strike by Israel on the Iranian nuclear sites, regardless of the talks now happening between Iran and the West, the three MKs said.

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