Washington, June 12 - Iran aims to dominate the Middle East through its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Tuesday.
“In the 21st century, the Iranian leaders want to renew imperialism,” he told the audience at a Brookings Institution event that also featured Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “If Iran will win, the whole Middle East will become the victim.”
Peres is in Washington to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, in a special ceremony conducted by President Barack Obama. On Monday, he met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.
A mainstay of Israeli political life for decades, Peres said he believed in non-military efforts to persuade Iran to change course but stressed the importance of a military threat.
“The sheer existence of the other option is a message. You say all the options are on the table. Everybody understands all the options,” he told MSNBC host Ann Curry in a television interview earlier today.
The P5+1, the six-nation negotiation group comprising of Russia, China, France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S., will take on Iran’s nuclear ambitions in talks scheduled for June 18-19 in Moscow. The meeting was almost derailed by Iran’s rhetoric against the European Union, a lead party to the negotiations.
Clinton said at the Brookings event that the international community had a clear plan for the upcoming negotiations with Iran.
“There is a unified position being presented that gives Iran, if it is interested in taking a diplomatic way out, a very clear path that would be verifiable and linked to action for action,” she said.
The session also focused on the ongoing violence in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has continued a brutal crackdown on civilians as a U.N.- and Arab League- endorsed plan to end the violence has faltered.
Russia is shipping attack helicopters to Syria for Assad's regime to use to attack citizens, a measure Clinton said "will escalate the conflict quite dramatically."
Peres commended the “bravery” of the Syrian people, but said that a resolution was up to the Arab world and Israel would have to reluctantly sit on the sidelines of a plan.