As the United States and its European allies work to win Russian, Chinese and Indian support for referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council, Israel and Jewish organizations also are working to turn up the heat on the Islamic republic.
In an effort to convince Western governments to ratchet up their pressure on Iran, Jewish groups are highlighting Tehran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons and its escalating anti-Israel rhetoric. According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Israel is working with America and with European countries to craft a package of possible sanctions that could be imposed on Iran if it fails to address international concerns about its nuclear weapons.
Iran announced last week that it would sponsor a conference to debate whether the Holocaust took place. The announcement comes on the heels of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assertion that the Holocaust was a myth and his declaration that Israel should be wiped off the map. Among the Jewish organizations pressing for immediate action at the Security Council are the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee.
The AJCommittee sent a letter to the 35 board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will convene an emergency meeting on February 2 to discuss the issue, urging them “to press for United Nations Security Council action against the Iranian nuclear program.” European countries also are pressing the IAEA to refer Iran to the Security Council.
During a high-level meeting Monday in London, Russia and China — two of the five permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers — agreed that Iran must resume its freeze on certain nuclear activities. But the countries rejected American and European calls for taking the matter to the Security Council. Russia and China did agree not to block a move by France, Britain and Germany to convene a special session early next month of the atomic agency’s board.
In the meantime, Moscow is working to revive its compromise proposal to move Iran’s uranium enrichment program to Russia, which would allow close oversight.
In his first comments about Iran since he became Israel’s acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert warned Tuesday that “under no circumstances can the state of Israel allow someone with hostile intentions against us to have control over weapons of mass destruction that can endanger our existence.”
“I believe there is a way to guarantee that nonconventional weapons won’t be found in irresponsible hands that can endanger world peace,” he added, without elaborating.
Israeli officials believe that Iran is closer to the “point of no return” in developing weapons than Western countries estimate. Israel argues that the key question is not when Iran will have a nuclear weapon, but when it will master the technology to produce the fissile component needed for nuclear warheads. Israeli defense officials have said that once Iran resumes its enrichment of uranium, as Tehran has announced it would do, the Islamic republic would be able to produce fissile materials in six to 12 months.
Earlier this month, Iran removed the seals on its uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and on two related storage and testing locations, and restarted nuclear work there. While such a move does not formally breach Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it violates an agreement Tehran struck with Britain, France and Germany in 2004.
Last week in Berlin, the foreign ministers of those three countries agreed that their negotiations with Iran had reached a dead end and recommended referral to the Security Council as the next step.