Israel Thinks U.S. Waiting for Iran Elections to Choose Policy
(IsraelNN.com) The elections pit Ayatollah Muhammad Hatami against current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Intelligence sources in Israel estimated that if Hatami wins, he will discontinue Ahmadinejad's confrontational policies vis-à-vis the United States and the rest of the West.
The sources in Jerusalem said that if Hatami is victorious, and if he steers away from confronting the West, President Barack Obama is more likely to advance a policy of dialogue with Iran as regards its nuclear program.
Should Ahmadinejad win, or should Hatami be elected and then proceed along the same path as Ahmadinejad, there is a chance that the U.S. will authorize Israel to strike preventively at Iran.
The new United States administration led by President Barack Obama believes that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, according to recent statements made by senior officials. The administration seems to have departed from the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) by U.S. intelligence agencies which said that Iran had stopped work on a bomb.
Obama referred to Iran's "pursuit" of nuclear weapons in a press conference earlier this week. Leon Panetta, whom Obama has nominated to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was even more direct, saying there is "no question that they are seeking that capability."
While Iran admits to running a nuclear program, Iranian leaders say the program is purely civilian and is intended to produce electricity, not weapons. However, these leaders have also repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, leading to fears that they seek weapons of mass destruction in order to launch an attack on the Jewish state.
The statements from Obama and Panetta were followed Thursday by a briefing from U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair. "Although we do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop nuclear weapons, we assess Tehran, at a minimum, is keeping open the option to develop them," Blair told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"I can say at this point that Iran is clearly developing all the components of a deliverable nuclear weapons program – fissionable material, nuclear weaponizing capability, and the means to deliver it," Blair continued. Iran does not currently have enough material for a nuclear weapon, he said.
A recent report from the U.S. Institute for Science and National Security gave a more concrete warning, concluding that Iran is expected to reach a "breakout capability" in the first half of 2009.
The stance taken by senior U.S. officials appears to contradict the 2007 NIE according to which Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Officials have criticized the report as misleading, saying it focused exclusively on development of nuclear warheads and failed to take into account Iran's progress in the other fields of nuclear weapon development. While Iran has not developed a bomb, it has managed to enrich uranium, and recently launched a satellite into orbit.