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US forecasts: Iran will have makings of 3 A-bombs by end of 2009
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis
November 22, 2008, 12:14 PM (GMT+02:00)
Sejil: Iran's newest test-fired ballistic missile
The most up-to-date intelligence predictions of US nuclear experts is that by the end of 2009, Iran will have stocked enough weapons-grade fuel to build three nuclear bombs.
The first will be ready for assembly by the time Barack Obama is sworn in as US president on January 20, 2009; the second shortly after Israel's February 10, 2009 general election produces a new prime minister, and the third by the end of the year.
Iran may deny the latest IAEA conclusion that it has stockpiled 630 kg of low-enriched uranium, enough to upgrade a nuclear weapon. But Tehran's limited on-and-off cooperation with the nuclear watchdog leaves it wide open to the suspicion of a secret location churning out enriched uranium far from the declared Natanz facility.
So what happened to the pledges made by the world powers over the years to keep nuclear weapons out of the Islamic Republic's hands, including declarations by US and Israeli leaders that their military options remained "on the table?"
Those pledges came from Israeli leaders on both sides of the aisle – prime minister Ehud Olmert, foreign minister Tzipi Livni (who has replaced him as Kadima chairman), defense minister Ehud Barak and opposition Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
DEBKAfile's political analysts comment: Their pledges have turned out to be as credible as the subsequence assurances of Olmert and his finance minister Ronnie Bar-On that the global economic crisis had skipped Israel and the public's savings and investments were safe.
This week, Israelis woke up to find one-third of their pension funds wiped out - and a nuclear-armed Iran on their horizon.
Next year, Tehran may stage an underground atomic test to show Muslims everywhere what the Shiites can do and confront the new US and Israeli governments with its unstoppable nuclear capability. That is unless Olmert, Livni, and Barak are moved to fight the strong trend toward a Likud election victory by going belatedly after Iran's nuclear facilities in the short weeks remaining for the ballot.
However, although the Olmert government had the Syrian reactor bombed in September 2007 while it was still under construction, DEBKAfile's political sources doubt whether they are politically and personally capable today of repeating that success against Iran.
Barak is consistent in ducking military action: He lost power in 2000 after refusing to pre-empt Yasser Arafat's planned Palestinian terror war against Israel. As defense minister, he has declined to halt Hizballah's rocket build-up in Lebanon or put the lid on the Palestinian missile offensive from Gaza. He preferred a shaky truce, which left Hamas and fellow-fundamentalist Palestinian terrorists backed by Iran and Syria to violate at will. This policy is backed by Olmert and Livni.
Saturday, Nov. 22, Hizballah launched a large-scale military exercise in South Lebanon, including in areas policed by UN peacemakers which are barred to Hizballah militiamen under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which Livni helped draft in 2006.
According to DEBKAfile's military sources, the years from 2002 to 2006, when Ariel Sharon and his faithful disciples Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, were then in power were the best time for halting Iran's race for a nuclear bomb by military action. Now it will be harder. Their favorite mantra was that George W. Bush was "the friendliest US president Israel had ever had." He could be counted on to halt Iran's nuclearization if Israel made the running with territorial concessions that opened the door to a Washington-sponsored peace with the Palestinians.
This claim validated Israel's unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005 at a time when it would have been easier – and smarter - to focus on destroying Iran's nuclear facilities than today. Likud leader, Netanyahu was minister of finance in the Sharon government, until he quit later over the controversial Gaza disengagement.
Livni played her part in this strategy with her favorite formula: A nuclear Iran is a world problem which should be left to the international community to solve.
Today, the Israeli public, on the evidence of the UN nuclear watchdog, can justly claim it was conned by its leaders. The Jewish state's most active enemy, the terrorist sponsor in Tehran, was allowed to go all the way towards acquiring the ultimate weapon of destruction.
Instead of admitting they missed the train, those leaders and "the international community," continue to try and lull troubled spirits with more deception, pretending that the peril of a nuclear-armed Iran can still be averted by more of their failed diplomacy.
And certain "experts" were enlisted to play down Iran's delivery capability by dismissing its new Sejil ballistic missile, test-fired on Nov. 12, as no better than the Shehab-3 as a vehicle for delivering a nuclear warhead.
Israeli and Western missile experts familiar with Iran's arsenal define the Sejil test a breakthrough in its missile technology.
The missile's unique features were disclosed in the last issue of DEBKA-Net-Weekly out on Friday, Nov. 21, 2009. To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE .
Israeli government publicists are now leaking a new thesis to tame reporters: A nuclear-armed Iran should not cause alarm. A quote from a closed symposium by an unidentified official set the tone: "We mustn't be scared by a little Persian with a big bomb."
Having failed to aver this existential danger to Israel, they were now trying to convince people that the holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his nuclear bomb can be safely ignored. It will be left to the Israeli voter to decide how far he and she are ready to be gulled again when they go to the polls in February.
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