- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that there were indicators that international sanctions on Iran had caused a rift between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“I personally believe they’re still intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, but also the information that we have is that they have been surprised by the impact of the sanctions,” he said. “Those measures have really bitten much harder than they anticipated, and we even have some evidence that Khamenei now is beginning to wonder if Ahmadinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy and whether he’s getting the straight scoop in terms of how much trouble the economy really is in.”

Mr. Gates said “the only long-term solution in avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is for the Iranians to decide it’s not in their interest” and “everything else is a short-term solution.”

On Nov. 8, Mr. Gates cited the success of the sanctions to push back against comments from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “a credible threat of a military operation” is the only way to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

Speculation continues to run wild over whether Israel will launch air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities if Western diplomatic and economic measures are seen as failing.

In preparation for such a strike, Iran on Tuesday llaunched what it called its largest-ever air-defense drill.

“The large-scale military maneuvers … will improve readiness to confront possible threats to Iran’s air space and the very populated, vital and nuclear centers,” said a senior air force commander, according to state TV.

• Ben Birnbaum can be reached at 138247@example.com.

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