Monday, August 01, 2005

New Estimates on Iranian Nukes

Orly Halpern, The Jerusalem Post:
Israel has adjusted its estimates of when it believes Iran will have nuclear bombs due to the belief that that Iran no longer runs independent military and civilian nuclear development programs. According to the new estimates, Iran will probably have a nuclear bomb by 2012, but could have the capability as early as 2008 "if all goes well for it," a high ranking IDF commander told The Jerusalem Post yesterday. READ MORE

"We no longer think that a secret military track runs independent of the civilian one," said the officer in an interview at IDF Headquarters in Tel-Aviv. "If it were then they could acquire weapons in 2007... We have changed our estimation. Now we think the military track is dependent on the civilian one. However, from a certain point it will be able to run independently. But not earlier than 2008."

Iran has been developing nuclear capacity which, it says, is only for peaceful civilian purposes allowed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But many countries fear that Iran is secretly developing nuclear military capacity as well.

Last January IDF Intelligence Branch chief Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi Farkash said in a lecture at the University of Haifa's National Security Studies Center that if Teheran did not stop its uranium enrichment activities, it would develop its first atomic weapon between 2007 and 2009. He also said that Iran was six months away from enriching uranium required to build a nuclear bomb, a step that has been described as the "point of no return."

That date passed last month and Israel does not believe that Iran has yet achieved the enrichment milestone. The source now believes the "point of no return" could occur within a few months to a year.

What most concerns Israel right now is the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran in 2008, especially given that the US is more concerned with the later possible date of 2012.

In November Iran voluntarily ceased its uranium enrichment program as as part of talks with France, Germany and Britain regarding its nuclear development program. Iran is threatening to renew its uranium enrichment process.