Ya’alon: Pressure can convince Iran to halt nuclear program

NEW YORK (JTA) – Israel’s strategic affairs minister expressed confidence that international pressure could force Iran to halt its nuclear program.

Moshe Ya’alon, speaking in New York at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the West needed to force Tehran to choose between the survival of its regime and the pursuit of its nuclear ambitions.

“It is not too late to put this regime in such a dilemma,” said Ya’alon, a member of the governing Likud Party who previously served as Israel’s army chief of staff.

Ya’alon said that if confronted with such a choice, the Iranian regime would opt for its survival. As evidence, he cited Iran’s 2003 suspension of many of its nuclear activities for two years, which followed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Ya’alon called for a combination of international diplomatic pressure, “crippling” economic sanctions, support for Iran’s internal opposition and a “credible military option.”

New European and American sanctions should be implemented “without hesitation,” he said, even if they lead to higher oil prices. Ya’alon also said that the Iranian regime needed to be convinced that there was a political will “to go all the way” with a military option, and that ultimately this would help avoid needing to use a military strike.

He referred to Iran’s government as a “messianic, apocalyptic regime” and said the country is the main generator of conflict across the region.

Ya’alon, who had been meeting in previous days with Obama administration officials, said that in areas where there had been disagreement between the two countries regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, there now is “no daylight.”

Ya’alon also expressed concerns over the recent electoral successes of Islamists in the wake of the so-called "Arab Spring."

He said that while it is in Israel’s interest to have more democracies in the region, democratization needed to take place via education rather than by elections.

Ya’alon criticized those who are “looking for instant peace and now instant democracy.”

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