Tags: israel | iran | nuclear

Israel Intel Chief: Iran Has 'Crossed Threshold'

Sunday, 08 Mar 2009 07:03 PM

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Iran has crossed a major technological threshold in its nuclear program – one that means it likely can make a nuclear bomb, according to Israel’s top intelligence official.

"Iran's ability to reach a military nuclear capability is a matter of adjusting its strategy vis-a-vis the goal of developing a nuclear bomb," Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence told Israel’s governing cabinet, according to reports in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and other media.

“The "technological threshold" is a Military Intelligence term for an expression they thought was too deterministic: the point of no return,” wrote Yossi Melman, one of Israel’s leading defense analysts, in Haaretz. “It means that Iran has the know-how, the resources and the equipment to make a nuclear weapon.”

Yadlin said that the Israeli military now believes that Iran "has stockpiled hundreds of kilograms of uranium at low levels of enrichment, and is hoping to take advantage of the dialogue with the West to buy the time necessary to enable it to develop a nuclear bomb."

Yadlin also said that the Obama administration’s new outreach to Iran is raising fears among moderate Arab states that Iran may be emboldened in its aggressive foreign policy, which involves the arming and training of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"Moderate Arab states believe that this [the dialogue] will be used by Iran and Syria, who will waste time under the guise of talk, while continuing their support for terrorism," said Yadlin, the IDF’s top intelligence official. "The extremist axis hopes that the U.S. will indeed alter its stance, but also suspects that this is only the preamble to creating a more effective coalition against them."

A week ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report concluding that Iran had managed to enrich sufficient uranium to produce a single nuclear bomb. Subsequently, this was acknowledged by the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Also yesterday, Iran test-fired a new air-to-surface missile, according to a report in the Iranian media. The test was carried out despite the desire of the administration of new U.S. President Barack Obama to engage Iran in direct talks if it "unclenches its fist."

Iran's Fars News Agency said the domestically produced missile had a range of 110 km. (70 miles) and was designed for use by military aircraft against naval targets.

"Now these jet fighters have acquired a new capability in confronting threats," the semi-official news agency said. Iran's Press TV initially said a long-range missile had been tested, but later also used Fars' description of it.

Israeli strategic analyst Yossi Alpher told the Associated Press that Yadlin's determination must be taken seriously. "It clearly renders the entire issue of how to deal with Iran both for the Obama administration and for Israel more urgent. It affects possible diplomatic initiatives, sanctions and the military option."

Israel considers a nuclear Iran to be the most serious threat to the Jewish state. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly called for destruction of Israel, and Iran has tested long-range missiles that could strike Israel.

The country’s long-held policy is that the West must cooperate to defuse the Iranian nuclear threat, but Israel’s leaders have made clear that they will strike unilaterally if they feel Iran has cross such a “point of no return.”

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, who is putting together the next Israeli government, maintains that Iran represents an existential threat to the Jewish state. He is widely considered to be more likely than other Israeli leaders to order an attack.

That problem is that most experts believe that destroying Iranian nuclear program is beyond the ability of Israel, or perhaps any country, to accomplish in a surgical strike. Iran's facilities are scattered around the country, some of them underground.

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