Iran Accused of Stirring Up Trouble in Israel, Iraq

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - An agreement between Iran and three European nations for Iran to limit its development of nuclear technology is good as far as it goes -- but it doesn't go far enough, a senior Israeli military official said.

Britain, France and Germany sealed a deal with Tehran last week, whereby Iran agreed to suspend its work on centrifuges used to enrich uranium -- a process that could be used to make atomic bombs.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, accepted the agreement and set up a stringent inspection program to verify Iran's compliance -- instead of turning the issue over to the U.N. Security Council, as the U.S. wanted.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that the Iran/EU agreement does nothing to calm Israel's fears. The U.S. also expressed its reservations about the agreement having a lasting impact on Iran's nuclear goals.

What was achieved in the EU-Iranian agreement was "very significant," said a senior Israeli military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The "good news" is that it shows that there is more concern in the international community about Iran's nuclear program. Two years ago, only Israel and U.S. raised the issue and 10 years ago, only Israel raised the issue, the official said.

"The bad news is that it's not enough because Iran is determined to obtain nuclear [weapons capability]," he said.

If Iran obtains a "nuclear umbrella" it will threaten moderate regimes in the region, he said.

Even without nuclear weapons, Iran is continuing to operate, support and finance Palestinian terrorism, by arming Hizballah with rockets, the official said.

Israeli experts believe that Iran has given Hizballah thousands of rockets that are aimed at Israel's northern border and capable of hitting many of Israel's major population centers.

Israeli army chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon said recent developments in the Middle East raise a "real opportunity" for strategic change, prompting Iran and other radical elements to fight the possibilities.

Since the death of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in November there have been many calls in the international community for a revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"The forces supporting the terror within the West Bank and Gaza in the last year are the same forces trying to undermine stability in other areas of the Middle East," Ya'alon said. "Namely, we are speaking of the Hizballah, sponsored by Iran and supported by Syria...

"While we recognize that we are in a local conflict with the Palestinians, it is also clearly connected with regional terror -- as we see in the Hizballah's aid to Palestinian terror groups and to global terror," Ya'alon told members of the Foreign Press Association.

Israel has been waging a diplomatic campaign to have Hizballah listed as a terrorist organization in Europe, where the EU makes a distinction between an organization's political and military wings.

Hizballah has been on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations for years. Hizballah was blamed for several suicide bombings in Beirut in 1983, in which 260 U.S. Marines and 60 French soldiers were killed.

It waged an 18-year guerrilla and cross-border terror campaign against Israeli troops and their allies from the now defunct South Lebanese Army until Israel decided on a unilateral pullout four years ago, withdrawing its troops to an internationally recognized boundary.

Hizballah claimed victory in driving Israel out and became an inspiration to Palestinians to launch their armed conflict against Israel several months later. Israel has charged that Hizballah has become increasingly involved in Palestinian terror attacks during the last year or so.

Experts say that Iran funds, arms and trains Hizballah, while Syria, the main powerbroker in Lebanon, lends logistical support.

Iraq and Jordan also accusing Iran of trying to exert its influence in the upcoming Iraqi elections with the goal of establishing a government there that will be dominated by Shiite Muslims loyal to Tehran.

Interim Iraqi president Ghazi al-Yawar was quoted in Wednesday's Washington Post as saying that Tehran was putting "huge amounts of money" into the Iraqi election campaign.

"Unfortunately, time is proving, and the situation is proving, beyond any doubt that Iran has very obvious interference in our business - a lot of money, a lot of intelligence activities and almost interfering daily," Yawar was quoted as saying.

"It is in Iran's vested interest to have an Islamic republic of Iraq...and therefore the involvement you're getting by the Iranians is to achieve a government that is very pro-Iran," the same paper quoted Jordan's King Abdullah as saying.

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