Israel’s minister of defense, Ehud Barak, who is reportedly seeking cabinet support for a military strike against Iran, announced on Tuesday during an Israel Radio broadcast that if attacked, Israel’s home casualties would amount to no more than 500.
The escalating rhetoric of war from Israeli officials is taken as a warning that the international community must prevent Iran’s access to nuclear weapons, or else. Media reports about increasing tensions between the two countries may also affect their intransigent stances.
Barak’s counterpart, Iranian defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, responded Tuesday that Iran was fully prepared for combat and would offer a "crushing response to those daring to attack" Iran, specifically referencing Israel.
Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. military aid, has one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world. President Obama’s 2011 budget allocated $3 billion from U.S. taxpayers for direct military assistance to Israel.
The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report last Wednesday claiming there was "credible evidence" that Iran was seeking the construction of a nuclear weapon. In its analysis of Iran’s nuclear program, it detected activities associated with nuclear energy production and others "specific to nuclear weapons."
Denying the IAEA’s accusations as "absurd," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday that it would not retreat "one iota" from its nuclear program, according to the Associated Press.
France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. issued statements about their concern for regional and international security. The Israeli cabinet expected these results, which could provide the international support for what could be "the last chance for coordinated, lethal international sanctions that would force Iran to stop," Barak said.
However, Iran has two key allies in the United Nations Security Council; China and Russia both hold veto-wielding power over sanctions. Their veto could call Israel’s "last chance" bluff--making the situation all the more uncertain.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei called for diplomacy and dialogue. Russia warned against the "intentional and counterproductive exacerbation of emotions" and announced additional sanctions would not be approved by the Security Council, as they "would be perceived by the international community as an instrument for regime change," according to a statement from its Foreign Ministry office.
Experts in the U.S. argue Iran is already in a weakened state, as a result of a combination of factors, which might render it unable to really pose a threat to the international community. It has been under heavy U.S.-sponsored economic sanctions for years, thereby weakening its peoples’ economic opportunities; its rivalry with Saudi Arabia is heating up; internecine struggles between its president and its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are weakening its government leadership; and its most important Middle Eastern ally, Syria, is under intense pressure as a result of the mass protests that began during the "Arab Spring" earlier this year.
However, Ahmadinejad might look to Libya as an example of what not to do: it denuclearized under international pressure a few years ago, leaving itself open to NATO bombs. In a similar justification as that used by the U.S. nuclear proliferations program, Iran’s search for nuclear weapons might be a deterrent against military action.