Israel's military chief says he doesn’t think Iran would choose to make nuclear weapons, though it is “going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide” whether to do so, Haaretz reported.
In an interview with the Israeli daily published Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Iran's nuclear program was still too vulnerable to attack for the country to produce a nuclear bomb.
“It will happen if [supreme leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response. I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don't think he will want to go the extra mile,” Gantz told Haaretz. "I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people."
His words echo the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies, which believe Iran is pursuing research to make it capable of building an atomic bomb, but don't think it is actively trying to build one.
Gantz has taken a more measured tone toward the Iranian nuclear threat than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The same day that Gantz was quoted as saying that economic sanctions and international pressure were helping nudge Iran away from nuclear weapons, Netanyahu appeared on CNN saying such measures "haven't rolled back the Iranian program -- or even stopped it -- by one iota."
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, but Western nations believe Iran wants the ability to build nuclear weapons. The Israeli government has threatened to bomb Iranian nuclear installations if the program continues, fearing that Iran is closing in on having the knowledge it needs to build a bomb.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles