Petraeus to Senate: Israelis see Iran as ‘an existential threat’


The former lead commander for U.S. Central Command underscored the importance of Israel’s perception of Iran as an existential threat during a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday.

David Petraeus, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told senators of the Select Committee on Intelligence that Israel sees Iran “as an existential threat to their country.”

“I think it’s very important to note, as the article did in the New York Times, the growing concerns that Israel has…about the continued activities by Iran along a path that could, if the decision is made…to pursue the construction of a nuclear device,” Petraeus said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Petraeus was referring to a piece in The New York Times Magazine by Israeli reporter Ronen Bergman about Israeli preparations for a possible attack to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.


My colleague, Ron Kampeas delves further into this issue today and highlighted the two main questions for the coming year: Will Israel strike Iran? And will the sanctions cause Iran to bend?

According to Kampeas, Bergman came away with the conclusion in his article that “Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012” due to the diminishing amount of time to take action.

Regarding the second question, the Iranians continue to send mixed signals on the effect of sanctions with their threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, but also their overtures to allow weapons experts to visit the Fordow nuclear facility in the city of Qom.

During the Senate hearing this morning, intelligence officials admitted that current sanctions on Iran have not caused the regime to change its posture, but additional pressure could push the Iranians to accommodate international demands.

“The sanctions as imposed so far have not caused them to change their behavior or their policy,” said James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, in response to a question from Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.).  “But…as the pressure ratchets up, there is the prospect that they could change.”

The Senate Banking Committee plans to take up a draft Iran sanctions bill on Thursday.

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