An immediate crisis was avoided when Iran chose to use over a third of its medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes earlier this year. Without this decision, Mr Barak told the Daily Telegraph that the situation would “probably” have escalated to reach its peak before the US presidential election.

But he predicted that sanctions and diplomacy would still fail to resolve the stand-off and gave warning that Israel and its allies would probably face the decision over whether to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities “next year”.

Israel reserved the right to act alone, added Mr Barak, who stated bluntly that any “operation against Iran” would be less dangerous “now” than when the country had crossed the nuclear threshold.