January 18th, 2012
Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that an Israeli decision on whether to strike Iran’s nuclear program was “very far off”.
Speaking to Israeli Army Radio, Barak would not offer a concrete estimate as to when he believes Iran may develop a nuclear weapon.
“I don’t know its a long way off. Some will say a few years some will say six months. It really doesn't matter.”
Pressed on whether the decision to use force might be weeks or months away Barak said “I wouldn't want to make any estimates. It’s not urgent.”
Barak’s comments come a day before the American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey is scheduled to visit Israel for talks on regional security matters and days after the two countries announced the postponement of a large-scale joint missile defense drill dubbed “Austere Challenge 12”
Dempsey's trip, his first to Israel since his becoming America’s top military leader, comes amid growing international tensions over Iran's nuclear program and its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz to international shipping. A Pentagon spokesman said Sunday the U.S.-Israel military exersizes would be pushed back until the second half of 2012 for "a variety of factors."
Pushing back on reports that the exercise was cancelled because of strategic or financial concerns the Israel Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren released a statement Tuesday saying the decision was made jointly with the U.S. and “stemmed solely from technical issues “ calling the postponement “routine”.
In the interview Barak deflected questions on media speculation that Dempsey was visiting to ask the Israeli government not to strike unilaterally against Iran.
“The U.S. Understands that we have to listen to what they say and I think they listen to us..” Barak said “I don’t think there is much difference in how we see things”
Asked whether Israel had pledged to notify the U.S. Ahead of any any unilateral military action against Iran Barak responded “I don’t want to go into this. We haven’t made any decision on this. All of this is very far off”
Speaking to CNN in December Dempsey said there is no guarantee that Israel will give the United States warning if it decides to attack Iran, but that despite that America as sharing intelligence with Israel.
"We are trying to establish some confidence on the part of the Israelis that we recognize their concerns and are collaborating with them on addressing them," he said at the time