December 9, 2019
Israel is prepared to attack Iran militarily if sanctions don’t force it to curtail its nuclear program and attacks on Israel, Foreign Minister Israel Katz told an Italian daily over the weekend.
Asked by the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera on Friday if a military strike on Iran were a possibility, Katz affirmed “it’s an option. We will not allow Iran to produce or obtain nuclear weapons. If the only option left to us is the military option, we’ll act militarily.”
Katz also said Iran was known to be planning new attacks against Gulf states, similar to its September strike against Saudi oil facilities.
“The actions against Saudi Arabia and the oil tankers make us understand that Iran still feels strong. Our intelligence information tells us that it intends to hit the Gulf countries again. The threat of sanctions is not enough. The only deterrent is a military threat directed against the regime,” Katz said.
Katz was in Rome over the weekend to attend the annual MED forum, a strategy conference for Mediterranean countries hosted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) think tank.
He lamented that European powers eager to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal risked undermining American and international sanctions that were succeeding in reining in the regime.
He told the paper that Israel believed “that US pressure and sanctions are effective. We expect Iran’s attempts to procure nuclear weapons and support terrorist groups to decline, but this will be easier if there is support from European countries. As long as the Iranians delude themselves that they have the support of Europe, it will be more difficult for them to bend.”
Besides his meeting with soccer star Christiano Ronaldo, Katz also met with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio during the visit, who called for dialogue with the Assad regime in Damascus.
Katz rejected the idea, telling Corriere Della Sera that “dialogue with Bashar Assad cannot be resumed as long as Syria allows Iran to use its territory against Israel and moderate Arab states.”
The meeting with his Italian counterpart dealt with “the common fight against anti-Semitism, the promotion of bilateral trade, and expressed the desire that Italy join the regional initiative to connect the Gulf countries to Haifa and the Mediterranean ports through a railway network.”
The idea is a longtime pet project of Katz, who served for over a decade as minister of transportation.
Such a rail connection “frees us from the need to go through two easily [sealed] straits, Bab El-Mandeb and Hormuz, and saves us 6,500 kilometers by sea.”
On September 14, a cruise missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities knocked out half the kingdom’s oil production. Although Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, the US, Britain, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran of being behind the attack.
Iran regularly threatens Israel, viewing the country as a powerful enemy allied with the United States and Sunni countries in the region against Tehran and its nuclear ambitions.
Iranian forces and Iran-backed militias, as well as fighters of Iranian proxy Hezbollah, have been fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war since 2011.