June 20, 2013
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon cautioned on Tuesday that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may exploit the moderate image of Presidentelect Hassan Rohani to advance Tehran’s nuclear project.
Speaking from the Paris Air Show, Ya’alon told Army Radio that he hoped the West will “surprise us and succeed in convincing the Iranians to give up on their military nuclear project in a diplomatic matter,” but expressed concern that sanctions might be eased while Iran’s nuclear activities continue.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shares his concerns, Ya’alon added.
“The very fact that he [Khamenei] allowed Rohani to be elected is interesting.
But we must not delude ourselves, as Rohani is a part of the conservative regime and the Islamic Revolution, and he is a reformist only in a relative manner,” the defense minister said.
“The only argument that developed during the elections between him [Rohani] and the other candidates is that Rohani said that Iran should speak to the West, and the others opposed this,” he said.
On Monday, Ya’alon met with the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
After the meeting, Ya’alon expressed appreciation for “the excellent ties between France and Israel,” and praised France’s efforts to include Hezbollah in the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations.
Ya’alon addressed last week’s elections in the Islamic Republic on Monday, saying the Iranian people “want to see a change, but I’m not sure Rohani, who is an ayatollah, will deliver the change in the way the Iranian people expect. Ultimately, the person who decided, decides and will decide is the supreme leader, Khamenei, and therefore the Iranian nuclear program should be stopped in one way or another.”
Ya’alon added that “the Iranians feel that they can advance in their nuclear program without paying the price, hence they must not be allowed to evade a decision.
Only a combination of pressures – sanctions, diplomatic isolation and a credible military option – can result in progress in a diplomatic channel.”
Currently, he warned, the Iranian project is moving forward.
Addressing the situation in Syria, Ya’alon said that “the very fact that the Iranian regime and Hezbollah are helping Assad is a threat to our interests and those of the West. The Syrian issue is global.”