Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that the past week's Iranian war games in the Strait of Hormuz were a sign of the regime's "distress" in the face of tightening Western sanctions.
"We saw reports about the large Iranian drill near the Strait of Hormuz today, which included missile firings," Barak told members of his Atzmaut (Independence) faction.
"To my mind, this reflects first and foremost Iran's distress in the wake of the tightening sanctions, including recent deliberations around sanctions on petroleum export and the possibility of sanctions on the central bank," he said.
Iran test-fired three missiles on the last day of naval war games near the Strait of Hormuz on Monday, in a display of its military might and ability to close the strategic waterway through which 20 percent of the world's oil flows -- if the West applies more sanctions.
The United States and its allies have been ratcheting up sanctions to punish Iran for pushing ahead with its nuclear programme. Western governments suspect the programme is cover for a drive for a weapons capability, an ambition Iran strongly denies.
"I doubt Iran can afford to seriously consider closing the Strait of Hormuz, even in the scenario of tighter sanctions," Barak said. "Such a move would turn the entire world against it. In their distress, the Iranians are exhausting their pool of threats, in what is also an attempt to deter the world from further sanctions."
France said on Monday that the missile tests were a "very bad signal to the international community" and stressed that "freedom of navigation" through the Strait of Hormuz must be maintained.
Earlier on Monday, Barak warned MPs that Iran's nuclear programme continues to advance, despite moves to increase sanctions on the central bank.
"I think the diplomatic efforts and increasing sanctions will not bring to a change in Iran's intention and stop its military programme," he told the foreign affairs and defence committee in remarks relayed by the committee's spokesman.
There is growing international recognition "that Iran is trying to trick and defy the international community, and continue to advance toward obtaining a nuclear weapon ability," Barak said.
"The main difficulty in increasing pressure lies in the lack of agreement on the necessary measures, mainly with Russia and China," he added.
Â© 2012 AFP
Date: Jan 2, 2012