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Thursday, December 6, 2007

When will Iran have a bomb - and what to do about it.

Bergman outlines a situation of "judgement in conditions of uncertainty." Israel should concentrate on getting hard data rather than on spreading alarmist assessments. This is not a job for Israel advocacy. Yelling about the Iranian bomb will not make it true. Denying it won't make it go away. If it is being built, it must be stopped, but for that we must have hard evidence.
When will Iran have a bomb?
Spy agencies worldwide divided on Iran threat; Israel fears 'worst case scenario'
Ronen Bergman
Published:  12.05.07, 10:58 / Israel Opinion
The story goes like this: The Mossad says the Iranians will be producing their first nuclear device by 2009. The IDF's intelligence branch talks about Iran acquiring all the knowledge needed to produce a bomb within six months. The CIA says Iran will have a bomb by 2011, or maybe only in the middle of the next decade, that is, 2015. Confused? We're not done yet.

The US State Department's research division is talking about 2013 as the target date, but all intelligence bodies that contributed to the US report published Monday agree that Iran stopped developing its military nuclear program in 2003 because of international pressure, yet continues to enrich uranium

The report says Iran does not employ a clandestine path, but the same report two years ago claimed it does employ such path, and Israel firmly argues that Iran is indeed doing it to this very day.

All of the above is public information only, and we haven't said a word yet about the various and differing views of intelligence agencies in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, and Egypt, which also have a position on the matter.

So what is the truth? When will Iran really have a bomb? Where should the public anxiety index be?

First, we should treat the report published in the US Monday, which contradicts previous reports published in the same forum, with the same skepticism that should be reserved for alarmist assessments frequently provided by Israeli intelligence agencies.

Israel has been slammed in Washington over the fact that since 2001, in every meeting between an Israeli prime minister and an American president, Israel claimed that Iran is "six months away" from reaching the "technological threshold." Sources in the American capital say that Israel made a fool of itself while trying to alarm the world.

Is Iran fooling the world again?
At the same time, we must recall that US intelligence officials have their own agenda. It consists of excessive caution in the wake of the huge screw-up in the efforts to uncover Saddam Hussein's attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. This agenda is also affected by their unwillingness to back military action against Iran, especially after wallowing in the Iraqi swamp as a result of the above-mentioned screw-up.
Foreign intelligence agencies that maintain contacts with the Mossad and Military Intelligence have been complaining in recent months that they are not receiving from Israel the evidence that would justify our Armageddon predictions regarding Iran. An echo of these complaints can be found in Monday's report, which contradicts the analysis of Israel's secret services.

However, this report mostly relies on assessments, rather than absolute and in depth knowledge of what's going on in Iran. The Ayatollah regime already surprised us in the past with its ability to hide a secret path en route to the bomb. There is no guarantee they are not doing it again.

For Israel, the report is big trouble: It brings closer what Israel views as the worst case scenario in addressing the Iranian threat. One of the top figures dealing with the Iranian threat recently said the following in a closed-door forum: "The relationship between Israel and the US is more complex than ever. We may see a situation, which I view as the worst possibility, where the US president tells us: 'I don't want to draw the required conclusions. You want to attack? Do it. I won't hinder you. You will strike, and you will pay the price.' I view such situation as the worst case scenario because of what will happen after it, which would have implications in various arenas, and because it will create various problems and deepen the gaps between them and us."

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