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Israel in corner as Iranian talk offensive takes centre ground

This posting contains these articles on the talks held in Geneva on Tuesday 15th  and Wednesday 16th October.
1) Ma’an news: Israel bitter as world hails positive Iran talks;
2) MEMO: Iranian official answers questions from Israeli journalists. i.e. Iran recognises Israel;
3) IPS: Israel and the Gulf Increasingly Nervous Over Iran-US Détente;
4) AFP: Geneva talks herald new ‘era’ for Iran nuclear dispute;
5) BBC: Q&A: Iran nuclear crisis;

The EC’s Catherine Ashton talks with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Geneva. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini /Reuters /Pool

Israel bitter as world hails positive Iran talks

By Ma’an news/AFP
October 18, 2013

JERUSALEM — The world’s positive response to the latest nuclear talks with Iran drew bitter skepticism from Israel, which warned its Western allies Thursday they risked being duped into easing sanctions prematurely.

Energy Minister Silvan Shalom, a former foreign minister, went further, accusing the European Union and the United States of being more concerned with relaxing restrictions on Iranian oil exports to boost their own economies than with addressing an issue that Israel regards as a threat to its very existence.

Washington, which has had no diplomatic relations with Tehran since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution, said Iranian negotiators had shown a greater level of “seriousness and substance” in this week’s talks than ever before.

But Israel, which has mounted a massive lobbying campaign in the United States to keep up the economic and military pressure on its number one foe, insisted that Iran’s intentions could be proved only by concrete steps to wind down its nuclear program, not by “sweet talk” from its new president.

“Iran will be judged by its actions and not by its presentations,” a senior Israeli official said.

“Until significant steps are carried out on the ground which prove that Iran is breaking up its military nuclear program, the international community must continue to impose sanctions upon it,” he added.

“The pressure of sanctions brought Iran to this point and must continue until Iran is stripped of its nuclear military program.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks with his Swiss counterpart Didier Burkhalter during a meeting on the sideline of nuclear talks on October 16, 2013 in Geneva. Photo by Martial Trezzini / Pool/AFP

After the talks in Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday, Iranian officials touted a “breakthrough” in the decade-old negotiations on allaying international concerns over its nuclear ambitions.

They said they were hopeful of a “new phase in our relations” with the world, after they outlined a three-step plan, including spot checks on its nuclear facilities, to try to reach a comprehensive agreement “within a year.”

Although there was no official response from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s army radio quoted a source close to him as taking a hard line.

“The Americans are the angels while the Iranians have given nothing,” the source said.

“For the moment, the Iranians have given nothing and there is no reason for any enthusiasm,” the source said.

Writing in Israel’s Maariv newspaper, Iran specialist Emily Landau said she saw no policy changes of substance from President Hassan Rouhani, the moderate cleric who took office in August and on whom the West has pinned its hopes of a breakthrough.

“Except for the more relaxed tones and the demonstratively positive approach, there is nothing significant of substance this time that we didn’t have in the previous rounds in 2012 and earlier this year,” wrote Landau, an analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

“As long as there is no indication that Iran has changed direction in its nuclear plans and has decided to give up its intent to develop a military nuclear capability, all of its proposals should be seen as tactical steps in the negotiations with the international community.”

Israel’s energy minister said the international community’s drive to end Iran’s long isolation on the nuclear issue was primarily motivated by a concern to reduce world oil prices, driven higher by the Western sanctions on Iran’s exports.

“Diplomacy of 2013 is based, first and foremost, on the economy,” Shalom told public radio.

“When there are tough sanctions on Iran and no one buys oil from Iran, of course prices go up,” he charged.

“The world is currently going through a financial crisis and … the Iran issue needs to be resolved to broaden supply and bring prices down. All the rest is just empty words.”

Israel, which has the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, has repeatedly threatened to take unilateral action if necessary to prevent any possibility of Iran developing the capability to build a bomb of its own.

Netanyahu renewed the threat before parliament on Tuesday in his latest salvo against the historic overtures between Tehran and Israel’s US ally.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi.  Although Iranian officials have traditionally avoided any contact with Israeli media, Araqchi told Israeli radio on Wednesday that: “Any agreement reached will open new horizons in [our] relations with all states.”

Iranian official answers questions from Israeli journalists

October 17, 2013

The senior official, who headed Iran’s delegation to the P5 +1 talks in Geneva, answered in the affirmative when the Israeli reporter asked if Israel could live in peace with Iran’s proposed concessions in its talks with the West.

Iranian officials have traditionally avoided any contact with Israeli media because relations between the two countries were severed after Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. Ever since then, the two countries have been considered enemies.

According to the Time of Israel newspaper, the Israeli reporter who conducted the interview was wearing a badge saying “Israel Radio” when he approached Araqchi, and he pointed out that the way he asked the question also indicated that he was an Israeli journalist.

Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran seeks to lift the sanctions while continuing to secretly produce nuclear weapons, even though there is no direct evidence that Iran has made the decision to pursue nuclear weapons, or started making them.

Israel’s Channel 2 said that another Iranian official also answered a question by of one of its journalists, without providing a name. The Iranians’ willingness to answer questions by Israeli journalists is significant and unusual.

Israel and the Gulf Increasingly Nervous Over Iran-US Détente

By Jim Lobe, IPS/
October 16, 2013

As hopeful, albeit vague, statements about talks in Geneva between Iran and the great powers continued to issue from the Swiss city Tuesday, foes of détente between Washington and Tehran maintained their own high tempo of work.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and its supporters in the powerful Israel lobby, which exerts its greatest influence through Congress, appear to be working overtime to persuade the administration of President Barack Obama not to ease economic sanctions on Iran until their maximalist demands are met.

On the eve of the two-day talks between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 (United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany), a bipartisan group of ten key U.S. senators published a letter they sent to President Barack Obama urging Washington’s delegation to stake out positions in Geneva – specifically, that Iran end all uranium enrichment on its own soil – which most Iran specialists believe are certain to kill prospects for a deal.

While insisting that they “support your efforts to explore a diplomatic opening,” the senators wrote Obama that they were “prepared to move forward with new sanctions to increase pressure” on Tehran unless it takes “concrete …actions” to dismantle its nuclear programme, beginning with the suspension of all enrichment.

If Iran complies, they said, they would suspend action on pending sanctions legislation that otherwise could be taken up as early as next week.

The letter reflected the position of Netanyahu, who has been campaigning tirelessly for several weeks, particularly since Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, made a highly successful visit last month to New York for the U.N. General Assembly, against any agreement between the P5+1 and Tehran that would not require Iran to totally abandon its nuclear programme, including enrichment capabilities.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu publicly released what veteran Israel-watchers called an unprecedented “Security Cabinet Statement” detailing alleged violations by Iran of U.N. Security Council resolutions and warning the P5+1 against any “premature” easing of economic sanctions, which last year halved the value of Iran’s currency.

“It would be an historic mistake not to take full advantage of the sanctions, by making concessions before ensuring the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” the statement asserted.

It then laid out conditions, including the cessation of all nuclear enrichment and the removal from Iran’s territory of all stockpiles of enriched uranium, that would result in Israel’s “embrace [of] a genuine diplomatic solution”.

A possible deal

The wave of attacks comes amidst growing speculation that this week’s talks, scheduled to end Wednesday, may provide an unprecedented opening for a deal.

For the first time, Washington appears willing to seriously address a proposed end-state that will meet a long-standing Iranian demand to maintain an enrichment programme in exchange for accepting tight constraints and a strict inspection regime to ensure against any “break-out capacity” that would enable Tehran to produce a nuclear weapon on short notice.

Until recently, U.S. policy had essentially adopted Israel’s position that Iran could not be trusted with an enrichment programme on its own soil. Lately, however, the administration has hinted that while it will not formally recognise Iran’s “right to enrich” under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it could live with such a limited programme as part of a comprehensive deal.

The deal includes Tehran’s disposing of its existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, dismantling its capacity to enrich at higher levels, and addressing concerns about its heavy-water facility at Arak, which could begin producing plutonium when it opens some time next year.

As Iran verifiably implements such a deal, according to U.S. officials, the administration and its P5+1 partners would lift sanctions.

While no one expects a comprehensive agreement to be concluded during this week’s talks, the apparently positive reception by U.S. and western delegations of Tuesday’s presentation by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of what Tehran is willing to do under such an accord suggests that confidence-building measures (CBMs) and proportionate sanctions relief may quickly follow.

That prospect worries Israel and the Gulf states – particularly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – who not only oppose Iran’s retaining any enrichment capabilities but also fear that a nuclear deal between Iran and the West that results in lifting sanctions will inevitably alter the strategic balance throughout the region, facilitating Iran’s re-emergence as a major power at their expense.

“They’re doing everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen because they fear that any outcome based on these negotiations is going to be a net negative for them compared to the status quo,” according to Trita Parsi, NIAC’s president.

But such a view is short-sighted, he told IPS, “because it doesn’t take into account how this game-changer can also open up new opportunities” by creating a new security structure that can help reduce sectarian conflicts and restore some stability to a region in turmoil.

Ire from Saudi Arabia

Even Saudi Arabia, while less vocal and powerful than Israel in U.S. domestic politics, took its own shots at the negotiations and possible rapprochement between Washington and Tehran.

In a remarkable appearance at the annual leadership convention of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Tuesday, Riyadh’s former ambassador to London and Washington, Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud, warned, “Rouhani will have to deliver before others take him seriously,” and bemoaned the fact that the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), of which it is the leading member, had been excluded from the P5+1 talks.

While he insisted that the Riyadh “favours engagement with Iran,” he also accused Tehran of seeking regional “hegemony” and intervening in Arab countries. Its alleged direct military involvement in the “killing” in Syria, he stressed, should disqualify it from participating in talks in Geneva to end that country’s civil war.

Rouhani, he said, “has to shed Khomeini’s interventionist legacy and, like his own discourse, adopt sensible policies.”

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at

Geneva talks herald new ‘era’ for Iran nuclear dispute

By Siavosh Ghazi, AFP
October 17, 2013

Tehran – Iranian analysts are hailing the latest round of nuclear talks with world powers as a “new era” and a “new spring”, praising Tehran’s insistence on its right to enrich uranium.

There was no breakthrough at the two days of talks in Geneva, but most participants welcomed the positive atmosphere of the negotiations, the first since April.

Iran showed more flexibility during the talks, seen as a test for the seriousness of a policy change advocated by President Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani, a reputed moderate who took office in August, has said he wants to swiftly resolve the long-decade nuclear standoff with the so-called P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.

So far, Rouhani has enjoyed the qualified support of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters including foreign policy and the nuclear issue.

But foreign analysts question the extent of Rouhani’s flexibility in the face of regime hardliners who are against any concession.

“Nuclear impasse broken in Geneva,” read the front-page headline of the government-run Iran daily, hailing the outcome of the negotiations.

“At the negotiating table we discussed in detail all the steps we should take. We also drew our red lines,” Iran’s chief negotiator Abbas Araqchi said, quoted by the daily.

“We also proposed solutions for the West’s concerns… if shipping out the enriched uranium is a red line for us, we proposed another way to tackle this concern,” he said.

Major powers are particularly concerned about Iran’s uranium enrichment which they suspect has military objectives.

Tehran vehemently denies this, saying that under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Tehran has signed up to, it maintains the right to have peaceful nuclear technology.

In an attempt to force Iran to reel in its disputed nuclear activities, the United Nations has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Tehran.

The United States and European Union have slapped the Islamic republic with additional punitive measures against its oil and banking sectors.

The sanctions slashed Iran’s oil revenues by more than half, seen the rial plunge against other currencies and caused inflation to surge by more than 40 percent, according to official data.

The reformist Etemad newspaper lauded the “new spring of negotiations,” in a column by former diplomat Ali Khoram.

Rouhani, he wrote, wanted to “open a new chapter in negotiations, while emphasising the country’s fundamental rights under (the NPT), including uranium enrichment.

“It is ready to undertake extensive cooperation to build trust”.

“But the West should not overestimate the impact of sanctions, assume it has the upper hand and that it is (only) up to Iran to show flexibility,” added Khoram.

Some observers said Tehran should defend its legal rights .

“As a member of NPT, Iran’s enrichment rights should be emphasised and approved by the West,” said Gholamali Khoshrou, a member of Iran’s negotiating team led by Rouhani in 2003 and 2005.

“If there is mistrust on the other side about Iran’s goodwill, we should tackle these concerns through legitimate mechanisms and legal tools.”

The official IRNA news agency said “another victory in Rouhani’s record, Iran’s glowing nuclear diplomacy in Geneva,” noting “optimism” among the diplomats involved in the negotiations.

According to IRNA, this “opportunity” created by the election of Rouhani, could pave the way for reaching an agreement about Iran’s right to enrichment, transparency, more inspections of nuclear facilities and the lifting of sanctions.

The hardline Kayhan daily was less optimistic, however.

It highlighted remarks by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that “America should show its good will in practical measures.”

Wendy Sherman, the head of the US delegation to the nuclear talks with Iran, urged the US Congress to delay new sanctions against Iran until there is an outcome at the Geneva talks.

Another round of negotiations is to be held on November 7 and 8.

Q&A: Iran nuclear crisis

BBC news
October 14, 2013

One of the thorniest disputes between Iran and the international communities is over Iran’s nuclear programme. The two sides have been in stalemate for years, despite several rounds of sanctions and talks. Here is an explainer to the crisis.

Why is there a crisis?

In short, because world powers suspect Iran is not being honest about its nuclear programme and is seeking to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran stresses that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only – but years of on-off talks have not yet resolved the issue.

How did it come about?

Iran’s nuclear programme became public in 2002, when an opposition group revealed clandestine activity including a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy-water reactor at Arak. The Iranian government subsequently agreed to inspections by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but questions remained about its intentions. The IAEA was unable to confirm Iran’s assertions that its nuclear programme was exclusively for peaceful purposes and that it had not sought to develop nuclear weapons.

This led the United States and its European allies to press Iran to stop enriching uranium, which can be used for civilian nuclear purposes but also to build nuclear bombs. In 2003, Iran agreed to suspend enrichment during negotiations over the long-term fate of its nuclear programme. However, the deal collapsed after the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.

In 2006, the IAEA Board of Governors referred Iran to the UN Security Council for failing to comply with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement. Since then, the Security Council has adopted six resolutions requiring Iran to stop enriching uranium. Four resolutions have included progressively expansive sanctions. Despite this, Iran continues to enrich uranium. In 2009, it disclosed the existence of a new underground facility at Fordo.

Attempts at substantive negotiations with Iran by the so-called P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – have reached an impasse, with neither side prepared to make significant concessions. This has heightened the sense of alarm in Israel, whose leaders have threatened to carry out military strikes on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Has anything changed?

Since he unexpectedly won the presidential election in June and succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad two months later, Hassan Rouhani and other senior Iranian officials have reached out to the West, saying they want to address concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities and negotiate an end to the sanctions that have crippled its economy.

In an interview with NBC in September, Mr Rouhani said he had “full power and complete authority” to strike a nuclear deal. Ultimate power lies with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but he has transferred responsibility for nuclear negotiations from the National Security Council to the foreign ministry, which is led by the US-educated former diplomat, Mohammed Javad Zarif.

Later that month, Mr Rouhani and US President Barack Obama became the first leaders of their countries to speak to each other since 1979. In a telephone conversation, they agreed to accelerate talks aimed at ending the nuclear crisis. Mr Obama said only “meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions” could “bring relief” from sanctions, but also that there was a “unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran”.

Why has the UN Security Council ordered Iran to stop enrichment?

Because the technology used to enrich uranium to the level needed for nuclear power can also be used to enrich it to the higher level needed for a nuclear explosion.

Iran hid an enrichment programme for 18 years, so the Security Council says that until Iran’s peaceful intentions can be fully established, it should stop enrichment and other nuclear activities.

Under international law, an order from the Security Council is held to supersede rights granted by other international organisations. The Security Council has ordered sanctions under Article 41 of Chapter VII the UN Charter, which enables it to decide “what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions”. The Council has also called on Iran to ratify and implement an arrangement allowing more extensive inspections as a way of establishing confidence.

How does Iran justify its refusal to obey the Security Council resolutions?

Iran has said it is simply doing what it is allowed to do under the NPT and intends to enrich uranium only for power station fuel or other peaceful purposes.

Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a signatory state has the right to enrich uranium to be used as fuel for civil nuclear power. Such states have to remain under inspection by the IAEA. Iran is under inspection, though not under the strictest rules allowed because it will not agree to them. Only those signatory states with nuclear weapons at the time of the treaty in 1968 are allowed to enrich to the higher level needed for a nuclear weapon.

Why have negotiations failed?

There have been several proposals for a settlement between Iran and the international community since 2003. However, none has so far gained acceptance of all of the involved parties and a deal has appeared ever more remote as Iran’s nuclear programme has expanded.

Since 2006, the P5+1 have pursued a “dual-track approach”, combining negotiations with Security Council resolutions demanding Iran halt uranium enrichment and imposing sanctions on entities and people involved in its nuclear activities. The US and EU have imposed additional sanctions on Iranian oil exports and banks since 2012, crippling Iran’s economy.

Iran wants the P5+1 to acknowledge that it has a “right” to enrich uranium, but the world powers are unlikely to agree until they are fully satisfied that Iran is not working on a nuclear bomb.

What is each side currently proposing?

At talks in Baghdad in May 2012, the P5+1 reportedly proposed that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20% and allow the shipment abroad of its existing stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium; close the Fordo enrichment facility; accept a comprehensive verification regime; and address allegations that it sought to design a nuclear device. As “reciprocity” for accepting such demands, the P5+1 said it would allow Iran to enrich uranium to the 3.5%-5% level; offer it a guaranteed supply of medical isotopes and technical assistance to ensure the safety of its civilian nuclear facilities; and offer it spare parts for its civilian passenger aircraft. Iran did not respond formally to the plan.

In Almaty in February 2013, the P5+1 presented amended proposals, which dropped the requirement that Iran dismantle Fordo entirely, but still insisted it cease enrichment to 20% there; allowed Iran to retain some 20%-enriched uranium for use at the Tehran research reactor; and offered to drop the bans on paying Iran with precious metals and on purchases of Iranian petrochemicals. At follow-up talks in April 2013, Iran presented a roadmap that required the easing of all sanctions and did not specifically offer to suspend enrichment to 20%.

President Rouhani has yet to make any specific counter-proposals. However, one of Iran’s negotiating team, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said it would be presenting a three-step plan to secure the independence of Iran’s civilian nuclear programme and reassure Western powers that it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iranian officials have suggested that their country’s stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium could be diluted to a lower level or converted into fuel cells for the Tehran research reactor. But Mr Araqchi stressed that “the shipping of materials out of the country is our red line”.

Why does the West suspect Iran wants nuclear weapons?

In 2007, the US published a declassified version of its National Intelligence Estimate. It assessed “with high confidence” that Iran did have a nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but that senior Iranian leaders stopped it when it was discovered. The 2010 NIE was not released, but according to the New York Times it “concluded that while Iran had conducted some basic weapons-related research, it was not believed to have restarted the actual weapons program halted in 2003″.

An IAEA report published in 2011 said it had “credible” information that Iran had carried out activities “relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device”. These included the acquisition of “nuclear weapons development information and documentation,” work to develop “an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components”, efforts “to procure nuclear related and dual use equipment and materials by military related individuals and entities”, and work to “develop undeclared pathways for the production of nuclear material”. Although some of the activities had civilian applications, others were “specific to nuclear weapons”, the report noted. Iran said the IAEA’s information was based on forgeries.

The report drew attention to a military complex at Parchin, south of Tehran, which the IAEA has been unable to visit since 2005. Reports surfaced in 2000 that a large containment vessel had been built there to conduct hydrodynamic experiments. The IAEA said such experiments, which involve using explosives in conjunction with nuclear material or surrogates, were “strong indicators of possible weapon development”. A report issued in 2006 said IAEA inspectors had not observed any unusual activities or detected the presence of any nuclear material at Parchin the previous year, though they did not visit the site of the containment vessel.

What does Iran say?

Iran has dismissed the allegations and reaffirmed its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.

In September 2013, President Rouhani insisted that Iran would never “seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons”. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is reported to have issued a fatwa some time ago against nuclear weapons, declared in 2009: “We fundamentally reject nuclear weapons and prohibit the use and production of nuclear weapons.”

Could Iran build a nuclear bomb if it chose to?

In September 2012, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly that Iran should not be allowed to possess enough weapons-grade uranium to produce a single weapon. Israeli officials said that meant it must not hold 240kg or more of uranium enriched to a medium level of purity, or 20%. From there, they argued, it would take only a few months to build a bomb as 20%-enriched uranium could be enriched to 90%, or weapons-grade, in a relatively short time.

Iran has argued that it needs 3.5%-enriched uranium for electricity production at its Bushehr nuclear plant, and 20%-enriched uranium for conversion into fuel for its medical research reactor in Tehran provided by the US in the days of the shah. In August 2013, the IAEA reported that just over half of its 372.5kg of 20%-enriched uranium had been converted, leaving it with 185.8kg.

US President Barack Obama told an Israeli television station in March 2013 that his administration believed it would take “over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon” if it decided to do so. That would mean producing enough weapons-grade uranium; fashioning it into a warhead; and being able to deliver it by airplane, ship or missile.

US officials have also said that if Iran wanted to enrich its uranium to weapons-grade, it would have to throw out the IAEA inspectors and take steps that would be easily detectable.

What are the chances of an attack on Iran?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constantly stresses what he sees as a potential existential threat from Iran, so the possibility of an attack, by Israel at least, remains.

At the UN in September 2012, Mr Netanyahu had set a “red line” of spring or summer 2013 for when Iran would be close to having enough weapons-grade uranium to produce a nuclear bomb, raising expectations of an Israeli attack around that time. However, talks between the P5+1* and Iran, and its conversion of 20%-enriched uranium into fuel, pushed back that deadline.

US officials have stressed the instability that would result from any attack on Iran. They appear to be hoping that even if Iran continues to develop its nuclear expertise, it will not try to build a bomb.

However, Mr Obama has also sought to reassure Israelis that military force remains a US option if sanctions and diplomacy fail to thwart Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions. “When I say that all options are on the table, all options are on the table,” he told Israeli TV in March 2013.

Doesn’t Israel have a nuclear bomb?

Israel neither confirms nor denies it has nuclear weapons – a policy known as “nuclear ambiguity” – though it is widely believed to possess up to 400 warheads. Israel has had a nuclear research facility in Dimona since the 1960s, and in 1986 former worker Mordechai Vanunu revealed details of a clandestine weapons programme at the plant.

Iran has accused the West of double standards in opposing its nuclear programme, but not Israel’s.

However, Israel is not a party to the NPT, so is not obliged to report to it. Neither are India or Pakistan, both of which have developed nuclear weapons. North Korea has left the treaty and has announced that it has acquired a nuclear weapons capacity.

On 18 September 2009, the IAEA called on Israel to join the NPT and open its nuclear facilities to inspection.

* P5+1 A group of the five Permanent members of the Security Council – United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France – plus Germany,  appointed to conduct talks with Iran on its nuclear capability.

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