Iran has enough material for the production of four or five nuclear bombs, former Military Intelligence head Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin declared on Tuesday. Speaking at a ceremony marking his appointment as the new director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, Yadlin said, however, that Israel should not rush to make decisions about a possible attack on Iran.
"They [the Iranians] are not trying to obtain nuclear weapons as soon as possible,” he said. “They only want to get to the point where they feel they have reached a breakthrough or penetrated the development of a nuclear weapon as a means to achieve immunity from attacks."
Yadlin also said, “Intelligence organizations around the world estimate that if Iran's supreme leader decides one night that he wants a nuclear bomb, it will take him at least a year to a year and a half to get the bomb. When Iran decides to move forward [with the development of the bomb] new options will become available to us and we will not be left alone. This means we must maintain open channels of dialogue with countries which have larger operational capabilities than we do."
Yadlin also addressed a hot-button issue in recent weeks: the public debate over Iran's nuclear program.
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"The discussion is important and legitimate and it should be held," he said. "However, not everything should be discussed in public and there are some issues that it are important, right and appropriate to discuss only in small forums. A public debate on the [Iranian] issue can weaken Israel's position, reveal its sources and cause options to be eliminated. A public discussion that is too detailed harms our operational capability."
Yadlin stressed during his speech that "the Iranian threat is an existential threat to Israel but this does not mean that once the Iranians acquire a nuclear weapon they will destroy Israel."
"I do not accept estimates in the media about Tehran's response if Iran is attacked," Yadlin said, referring to recent reports quoting Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi as saying that if Iran was attacked, 150,000 missiles would be launched at Israel and “the Basijis [members of the voluntary militia] will not even give Israel the time to breathe."
"They do not have 150,000 missiles and there is a difference between short-range and long-range rockets. Most of them do not have high precision and their chances of striking their targets are slim," Yadlin said.
Speculation about Israeli military moves against Iran has grown since the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report earlier this month detailing the strongest evidence yet that Tehran is engaging in covert atomic weapons work. Tehran continues to insist that its nuclear work is for peaceful means, but at the same time regularly engages in fiery rhetoric against Israel and the West.
Last week, the EU agreed in principle to expand economic sanctions against Iran, one day after the U.S., France, Britain and Canada announced similar measures. The EU's final approval for sanctions is scheduled to be announced on Thursday at a gathering of EU foreign ministers.
U.S. President Barack Obama's top national security aide said last week that a U.S.-led drive to isolate Iran had slowed its nuclear program and there were still "time, space and means" to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. His remarks may also serve as an appeal to Israel for more time to devise a diplomatic strategy amid the growing speculation about a potential Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Meanwhile, new satellite images published on Monday by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) of the blast that occurred at an Iranian military base near Tehran two weeks ago show that the base suffered far greater damage than what Iranian authorities have reported.
Based on the pictures which are accessible on the ISIS website, most of the buildings on the base appear to have suffered extensive damage and some buildings appear to be completely destroyed.
An ISIS report analyzing the images noted that, "Some of the destruction seen in the image may have also resulted from subsequent controlled demolition of buildings and removal of debris."
However, the report added that, "There do not appear to be many pieces of heavy equipment such as cranes or dump trucks on the site, and a considerable amount of debris is still present ... Thus, most of the damage seen in the November 22, 2011 image likely resulted from the explosion."
In an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday, Paul Brannan, the author of the ISIS report, said, "It was pretty amazing to see that the entire facility was destroyed. There were only a few buildings left standing.”
Iranian authorities claimed the Nov. 12 blast that left 17 people dead including the architect of the country’s missile program, was an accident, but reports have suggested the explosion may have been an act of sabotage.
A few days after the blast, the U.K. newspaper the Guardian spoke to a source closely tied to the Iranian regime who blamed the attack on the Mossad.
"I believe that Saturday's explosion was part of the covert war against Iran, led by Israel," the source, a former director of an Iranian state-run organization told the Guardian, on condition of anonymity.
TIME magazine also quoted a Western intelligence official as also saying the Mossad was responsible for the blast.
"Don't believe the Iranians that it was an accident," the official said. He added that other sabotage attacks were being planned to hinder Iran's plans to develop nuclear weapons. "There are more bullets in the magazine," the official said.
Iranian Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabadi said after the incident that the explosion occurred while researchers were developing weapons capable of giving Israel a "strong punch in the mouth," the New York Times reported. Firouzabadi also noted that the explosion caused a "short-term delay" in the research, but doubts have been cast over his statements in light of the vast destruction seen in the new images.
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