Iran 4-6 months from nuclear weapons capability -- report
It is very difficult to be sure whether the intelligence is correct, but if Iran is this close confrontation could be imminent
The Times of Israel reports today that Iran could be a mere four to six months away from being capable of building a nuclear weapon. The report is based upon remarks by former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who is quoted as saying:
"Iran has completed in the last two years two components that… give it all of the necessary means to manufacture a nuclear weapon as soon as it chooses to do so... It may be that they’ll decide to act in 2013, and then we’ll require Israeli and perhaps also American action."
Yadlin, now head of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, is a serious figure whose opinions need to be taken with more than a pinch of salt. If the new Israeli government is as convinced as he is, we may be on the verge of the kind of military strikes that have been talked about for years.
However, the key question of the reliability of the intelligence remains as vexing as ever. At a conference organised by the Henry Jackson Society last week in London, I was struck by the willingness even of traditionally hawkish US foreign policy analysts to volunteer that they are as unconvinced as anyone that our intelligence agencies know how advanced the Iranian nuclear programme really is.
My personal view is that Iran is guilty until proven innocent, and that it is up to the regime in Tehran to show that it is much further from acquiring nuclear weapons than people such as Mr. Yadlin suggest.
Fat chance of that happening. Iran, to this day, maintains that its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes only.
Nonetheless, neither my opinion nor the opinion of US analysts will be the decisive factor in what happens next. There is only so long before Iran does in fact reach the so-called nuclear "break out" stage. Israel will not hesitate to act if it feels that its vital national security interests are at stake.
The way in which the conversation among senior military and intelligence figures in Israel turns will ultimately define what action the government of that country takes.
Nothing is certain. But no-one should be shocked or surprised to wake up one morning in 2013 to hear that Israel has taken matters into its own hands.
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