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Iran's nuke fixation could trigger arms race, Israeli minister says

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak speaks at the Halifax Security Forum at the Westin Nova Scotian hotel in Halifax November 19, 2011.


Iran's determination to build a nuclear bomb will embolden terrorists and could trigger a nuclear arms race among Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other neighbours in the Middle East, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday.

Mr. Barak suggested Iran will have nuclear military capability soon, and that the international community must mobilize to stop it.

Iran is the patron state for a number of terrorist groups, Mr. Barak said, and a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands would be "an umbrella... to all terrorist organizations, not only Hamas and Hezbollah" but also extremists in Yemen and Kashmir along with Somali bandits.

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Intervention, such as the NATO mission in Libya, the invasion of Iraq and execution of Saddam Hussein and the uprisings in Arab nations would all become much riskier propositions with a nuclear Iran, Mr. Barak said.

"The whole decision-making process would have looked totally different if they had had crude nuclear devices," Mr. Barak said, "because once they reach nuclear military capability, they will feel much more immune the same way Kim Jong-il feels immune, and can be much more brutal."

Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum, Mr. Barak declined to discuss whether Israel would launch a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

A United Nations nuclear monitoring agency said in a recent report there was credible evidence Iran was building nuclear components in 2010 despite four sets of UN Security Council sanctions.

Iran is one of the world's largest oil producers. Mr. Barak admitted even tougher sanctions, such as an oil embargo, is unlikely.

The United States is trying to get Russia and China, Iran's biggest customers for oil, to agree to exert greater pressure on Iran.

U.S. Senator John McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, accused Russia and China of "disgraceful behaviour" for failing to join UN sanctions on Iranian nukes. Beefing up those sanctions and getting those two countries to take part in sanctions must come before militiary strikes, he said.

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"It's pretty clear the Israelis view this as an existential threat," Mr. McCain told reporters at the conference. "It's reprehensible they would block sanctions from getting through the UN Security Council."

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About the Author
National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

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