TEHRAN (JWN and agencies)—Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has welcomed recent comments by US President Barack Obama favoring negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program over military action, according to a report Thursday on Iran state television.
Given Iran’s characterization of the US as “the great Satan” (and Israel as “the little Satan”), it is extremely rare for Iran’s top leader to praise any American leader. Khamenei’s move is seen by Western analysts as evidence increasing sanctions against Iran are taking effect—although Khamenei said the West’s sanctions on Iran would fail.
Nevertheless, Khamenei criticized Obama for pursuing increased sanctions against Iran. “It is a mistake to think Iran can be brought to its knees,” Khamenei told a gathering of the Islamic Republic’s clerical council, the Assembly of Experts.
There would be consequences for the United States as well as Israel if a premature strike is launched on Iran, Obama added.
Following his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu said in an interview with FOX News on Wednesday that he does not think war with Iran is inevitable, but only if Iran can be dissuaded from developing nuclear weapons by a real threat of a strike.
A credible military threat is the only way Iran can be prevented from continuing its drive for nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said. “The only time they backed away was in 2003,” he added, when the regime in Tehran thought such a threat existed.
“So the paradox is that if they actually believe that they are going to face the military option, then you probably will not need the military option,” Netanyahu said.
Most importantly, added, time is running out. “It was a lot further away 15 years ago when I started talking about it. It was a lot closer 10 years ago. It was a lot closer five months ago,” Netanyahu said. “They are getting there and they are getting very, very close.”
He asserted that sanctions have not yet halted Iran’s race to produce nuclear arms and suggested Iran’s agreement to the new bid at big power negotiations might just be a tactic to gain time for nukes. “I think they can bamboozle the West,” Netanyahu said.
The toughest sanctions would work only “if they are coupled with a clear military option that the Iranians believe would be applied to them,” Netanyahu said.
While the ayatollah was allegedly speaking in a conciliatory fashion, the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was apparently continuing to target Israeli diplomats.
Following attacks linked to Iran in India, Georgia, and Thailand in recent weeks, Turkey has apparently become the next on Iran’s list. The Turkish daily Hurriyet on Wednesday quoted a report on NTV news that Israel had warned Ankara that Iranians are planning attacks on Israeli diplomats on Turkish soil.
The Turkish paper quotes a story aired on NTV news, in which it was reported that Israel’s main intelligence agency sent a letter to the National Intelligence Agency saying that the “Iranian Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force” is preparing to attack Israelis in Turkey.
According to the report, the Mossad has warned that four members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force have already “entered Turkey from Iran” with weapons to carry out attacks on Israeli diplomats.