The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly maintained massive military funding for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities despite ongoing negotiations between Western powers and the Islamic Republic.
Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that Knesset members taking part in committee hearings in January and February were informed that the 2014 national budget still includes 10 billion shekels ($2.89 billions USD) for preparations for a long-range strike on Iran.
A number of Knesset members who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity said army officials were asked if the large expenditure was justified in light of negotiations taking place between Iran and the West to resolve the nuclear issue. The IDF representatives simply answered that these were their orders.
While the head of the UN nuclear agency said earlier this month that Iran had done about half of what it promised in an interim nuclear deal with the West, US Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that Tehran still has some difficult decisions ahead of it in order to convince the world that it has abandoned the quest for atomic weapons.
Renewed talks in Vienna this week cast doubt on whether or not Kerry’s conditions would be met. During the gathering, Iranian officials firmly rejected demands that they scrap or radically alter the Arak heavy water reactor, which Western officials argue could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report lamenting that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has not turned out to be the great reformer that Western leaders hoped and proclaimed his as. Ban noted that human rights abuses remain as rampant in Iran today as during the tenure of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.