Only Threat of Force Can Stop Iran, Israeli Lawmaker Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Threatening Iran with the use of "brute force" is the only way to force Tehran to back down from its pursuit of nuclear weapons, an Israeli lawmaker said.

Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said he told officials in Washington recently that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons can still be stopped without using force, but only if the West makes it clear to Iran that it will "consider brute force."

"It's the only chance [to make them back down]," Steinitz told Cybercast News Service. "If Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will become a global nuclear superpower," he warned.

Steinitz spoke to Cybercast News Service one day after the Israeli Army, in an unusual move, issued a statement clarifying the "Iranian nuclear issue" - specifically, comments made earlier by the head of the Israeli Army.

"Reports stating that in March 2006 Iran will reach the point of no return and will then produce a nuclear bomb are incorrect," the army said on Tuesday evening.

Earlier on Tuesday, Army Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz told Israeli lawmakers that Iran will have the technological capability to produce nuclear weapons within three months - "the point of no return" - although it won't produce an actual bomb for a number of years.

"Iran is determined to obtain the technological capability that will allow it to produce a nuclear bomb, but numerous obstacles remain in its path," Halutz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Even if the Iranians pass the uranium-enrichment stage, they are still a number of years away from building the bomb," he added.

Numerous press reports picked up Halutz' "point of no return" remark, prompting Steinitz to criticize the term.

"I prefer not to use the term 'point of no return' because in the process of the development of nuclear weapons, there is no such point," Steinitz told Cybercast News Service.

Steinitz said it is possible to halt or dismantle Iran's nuclear development at any stage, and he said the term "point of no return" was "ambiguous and undefined."

He said when he challenged Halutz about the term, Halutz agreed to stop using the phrase.

In the past, Israel has indicated that the "point of no return" in Iran's nuclear program would be the point at which Iran starting enriching uranium, Steinitz said. But he noted that Libya had already started enriching uranium when it finally dismantled its nuclear program.

According to the Israeli Army's "clarification," the importance of March 2006 is that the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet then. "The expectation is that this meeting will lead to the prevention of Iranian progress in the research and development" of nuclear weapons, the statement said.

"Through this research and development program, Iran is attaining the technological knowledge necessary for the production of nuclear capabilities. Should this process be completed, Iran will be able to achieve independence in the development of a nuclear capability, in the near or far future," the Army said.

"For this reason, it is important to stop the process."

Despite his objection to the term of "point of no return," Steinitz said it is clear that "time is running out" to stop the Iranians, and only the threat of military action would deter the Iranian regime from its nuclear goals.

"The moment they start uranium enrichment it will take them one to three years to produce nuclear weapons. Time is running out for the world to prevent that," he said.

The last process the Iranians need is enrichment. They have already finished the conversion process whereby they have turned natural uranium into about 40 tons of UF6 gas, Steinitz explained.

The next step is to take that gas and to enrich it in a centrifuge. Four percent enrichment is enough for nuclear fuel, but if it is enriched to 90 percent, then it can be used for nuclear weapons, he said.

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