THE SUGGESTION by Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, that Iran has pulled back from the brink of its confrontation with the West over its nuclear program is intriguing.
In his recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, Barak argues that Iran's decision to consign a proportion of its enriched uranium stockpile to civilian use has averted a crisis that easily could have led to Israel launching air strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. By converting its enriched uranium to fuel rods used for medical isotopes, Iran has helped to reassure the International Atomic Energy Agency that its intentions are peaceful.
But that is only half the story. Iran still possesses significant quantities of enriched uranium, which could be used for a nuclear weapons program.
At a time when the Iranian economy is under severe pressure from the wide-ranging sanctions that have been imposed for Tehran's non-compliance on nuclear matters, the ayatollahs might have decided to give themselves some breathing space by playing along with the IAEA's demands, with the aim of returning to their nuclear weapons program once the international pressure has eased.
But, as Barak makes clear, that would be a grave miscalculation.
The Telegraph, London