x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Netanyahu tells his officials to stop 'blabbing about Iran'

Israel PM is said to have directed the instruction at a number of military officials and government ministers who he believes have been speaking too freely about a potential Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

JERUSALEM // Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned his officials to stop "blabbing" about the possibility of an attack targeting Iran's nuclear programme, the newspaper Maariv reported yesterday.

Mr Netanyahu is said to have directed the instruction at a number of military officials and government ministers who he believes have been speaking too freely about a potential Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

The newspaper, citing unnamed senior officials, said Mr Netanyahu delivered the warning during a meeting with ministers from his Likud party on Sunday.

"Stop blabbing, already," he reportedly told the officials. "This chitchat causes huge damage, puts Israel on the front line, and damages sanctions" imposed by the United States and Europe on Iran, the premier reportedly said.

Maariv's sources said there was concern that Israel "might be perceived as dragging the US into a war with Iran against its will and endangering the US's national interests."

The warning came after several statements by senior Israeli military and political officials last week, including Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon who suggested that all of Iran's nuclear sites were vulnerable to attack.

"In my military experience, any site protected by humans can be penetrated by humans," he said during the annual Herzliya security conference. "At the end of the day, all their sites can be hit."

Speculation has risen in recent weeks, driven in part by comments made by Israeli officials, about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran.

Israel and much of the international community believe that Iran's nuclear programme masks a covert weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies.

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has supported tough sanctions against Iran, but also insisted it retains the option of a military strike to halt its nuclear activities.

Israeli President Shimon Peres yesterday sought to calm concerns about such an attack.

"The non-military options are more numerous than the military alternative," he told students in the city of Haifa.

"When it is said that 'all options remain on the table' it should be remembered that there are also non-military options," Mr Peres said.

He said the Iranian regime's behaviour would ultimately bring about its downfall.

"They have no positive message," he said. "Only destruction and killing. They have no future and we shall prevail over them all."

On Sunday, US President Barack Obama also tried to dampen speculation about Israel's intentions.

"I don't think Israel has made a decision" to hit Iranian facilities, he told the American network NBC.

Mr Obama said Iran was "feeling the pinch" of ever tougher sanctions imposed by the international community, and dismissed concerns that Tehran could retaliate with an attack on US soil, saying such a strike was unlikely.

"I've been very clear — we're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating a nuclear arms race in a volatile region," he said.

He added: "Again, our goal is to resolve this diplomatically. That would be preferable. We're not going to take options off the table, though."