Perle: U.S. will attack Iran if it obtains nukes

By Yossi Melman and Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondents

President George Bush will order an attack on Iran if it becomes clear to him that Iran is set to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities while he is still in office, Richard Perle told the Herzliya Conference on Sunday. Perle is close to the Bush administration, particularly to Vice President Richard Cheney.

The leading neoconservative and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute addressed the session on Iran's nuclear program. He said that the present policy of attempting to impose sanctions on Iran will not cause it to abandon its nuclear aspirations, and unless stopped the country will become a nuclear power.

A less decisive opinion was expressed by Dr. Robert Einhorn, who until 2001 was senior advisor to the secretary of state on nuclear nonproliferation, chemical, biological and missile delivery systems. Einhorn told the conference that of all available options, including the military one, he preferred continued pressure on Iran that would force its leadership to pay a political, economic or other price and conclude on its own that its nuclear aspirations were harming its interests.

Einhorn emphasized, however, that the military option still exists and can be carried out on short notice. Natanz, the nexus of Iran's uranium enrichment program, would be a major target of such action.

Dr. Gary Samore, Director of Studies at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, told the Herzliya Conference he believed Iran was still years away from attaining nuclear weapons capability, He admitted that at this stage it would be difficult to judge whether Iran has a second, secret nuclear program parallel to its declared one. Samore said that even if it this is the case Iran still cannot yet create enough fissionable material to make its first nuclear bomb.

Dr. Eli Levita, deputy director of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, did not discuss the Israeli position. Instead, he emphasized that since 1989 the world has been in what he called the "third nuclear age." He said this age, which would continue until approximately 2011, was characterized by destabilization of the nuclear order and the appearance of new nuclear powers. The war in Iraq, Levita explained, was the first war to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The next age, the fourth age according to Levita, could see the rise of Iran as a nuclear power, the disintegration of Pakistan as a result of its possession of nuclear weapons, serious consequences resulting from the continuing crisis in North Korea and the danger of nuclear weapons finding their way to terror groups.

Netanyahu on Iran[/SIZE]
Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Iranian nuclear threat extensively in his speech at the conference. According to Netanyahu, the threat should be countered with a series of steps to explain the situation in the international arena, as well as with economic sanctions.

He proposed starting with a divestment by major U.S. pension funds of companies doing business in Iran.

"I call on the world that did not stop the Holocaust to stop investing in Iran to prevent genocide," he said, recommending garnering international support to bring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to trial for genocide.