A Conversation With Ehud Barak

By Lally Weymouth
Saturday, January 26, 2008

Newsweek-The Post's Lally Weymouth interviewed Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Davos, Switzerland, this week. Excerpts:

Q. You were critical of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

A. Our interpretation is that clearly the Iranians are aiming at nuclear capability. It's probably true that . . . they may have slowed down the weapons group in 2003, because it was the height of American militarism. . . . We think that they are quite advanced, much beyond the level of the Manhattan Project. We suspect they are probably already working on warheads for ground-to-ground missiles . . . [and] that probably they have another clandestine enrichment operation beyond the one in Natanz.

What kind?

The dots that we see . . . cannot be easily connected in a way that does not lead to a nuclear program. . . . The leading intelligence communities should concentrate on finding whether there is . . . a clandestine enrichment operation and a weapons group working on the weapons technology.

Do you think the Americans will fail to take action as a result of the National Intelligence Estimate?

Clearly the NIE reduced the enthusiasm even for tougher sanctions. Basically, in strategic terms, we face a triad of challenges: one, radical Muslim terror; two, nuclear proliferation; and [three] rogue states.

To deal with such threats . . . we need a much deeper and more intimate cooperation between the United States, the E.U., Russia and China. And this needs a paradigm shift in the way we approach China and Russia.

Does Israel have the ability to conduct a military raid on Iran alone?

I am not going to talk about this.

I know the Vinograd report will be issued shortly and you promised to leave the government if the government came out badly.

I remember what I've said. . . . I will read the report and decide what is best for the country. We have . . . to support stability and continuity of government.

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