Iran Now Free to Achieve Its Military Nuclear Ambitions: An Israeli Perspective on the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate

[Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs] Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, former Director of IDF Military Intelligence (2001-2006) - After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the EU opened diplomatic negotiations in July 2003 to try to stop the Iranian nuclear program. By the end of that same year, in the wake of the U.S. victory in Iraq, Qaddafi had stopped Libya's nuclear military program. It was in this context of Western detection of their nuclear program and the Iraq War that led the Iranians to halt their nuclear program across the board in 2003. The NIE indeed admits that the Iranian halt in its nuclear programs came about from the international scrutiny and pressure that resulted from "exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work." Together with developing a nuclear weapon, Iran has been developing an appropriate long-range delivery system. Its Shihab 3 missile can carry a warhead of approximately 700 kilograms over a distance of 1,300-1,500 kilometers. These missiles are under the command of the Revolutionary Guard that reports to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, not President Ahmadinejad. Iranian missile exercises showed that the missiles are aimed at both Tel Aviv and Riyadh. Paragraph C of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) summary report states that Iran made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz. Based upon this finding, Israeli military intelligence estimates that late 2009 is the earliest possible date that Iran will be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon. In my view, any distinction between Iranian military and civilian nuclear programs is artificial. The enrichment of uranium, critical to both civilian and military uses, is continuing. Once they have enough enriched uranium, they will be 3-6 months away from building a nuclear bomb if they decide to do so. The NIE has clearly weakened international support for tougher sanctions against Iran and has weakened Turkey and the moderate Sunni countries in the region that were seeking to build a coalition against Iran. So, ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions without any interference.

2008-01-10 01:00:00

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