Iran could seek short build time for bomb: Israel (REUTERS) By Dan Williams JERSALEM, ISRAEL 05/04/12 9:40am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Iran´s nuclear strategy could eventually allow it to
build an atomic bomb with just 60 days´ notice, Israeli Defence
Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday.
His remarks elaborated on long-held Israeli concerns that Iran is
playing for time even as it engages world powers in negotiations
aimed at curbing its uranium enrichment drive. Talks are due to
resume in Baghdad on May 23.
"They are currently trying to achieve immunity for the nuclear
program," Barak told the Israel Hayom newspaper.
"If they arrive at military nuclear capability, at a weapon, or a
demonstrated capability, or a threshold status in which they could
manufacture a bomb within 60 days - they will achieve a different
kind of immunity, regime immunity."
Iran insists that its often secretive uranium enrichment is for
peaceful energy and medical needs. At higher levels of purification,
such projects can yield fuel for warheads, but Israel and the United
States agree Iran has not taken that step.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last year issued a
report detailing alleged Iranian research and development activities
that were relevant to nuclear weapons, lending independent weight to
Barak has said Iran is holding off until it can dig in behind
defenses sufficient to withstand threatened Israeli or U.S. air
strikes on its nuclear facilities.
His 60-day timeline for potential Iranian warhead production appeared
aimed at skeptics both at home and abroad of Israel´s alarm who say
it is too early to rattle sabres.
Israeli leaders believe the diplomatic drive, which involves the five
permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, has a low chance of
success, and suggest that Iran´s rulers seek an atomic bomb as
insurance against outside intervention.
Some prominent Israelis have questioned the strategic value of a pre-
emptive strike, with former spy chief Yuval Diskin last week accusing
the government of promulgating the "false impression" it had the
means of halting Iran.
"This is not so. We have been talking all the time about a delay,"
said Barak, indicating that Israel could not eradicate Iran´s nuclear
program, but saw value in forestalling it.
In an interview with Canada´s Globe and Mail newspaper, Israeli
President Shimon Peres said those advocating an attack on Iran had to
figure out what would happen after a strike.
"Some people say it will make Iran powerless for two to three years.
That´s not good enough," he said.
Israel is reputed to have the region´s only atomic arsenal, but many
experts - including U.S. military chief, General Martin Dempsey -
have voiced doubt that its conventional forces would be able to
deliver lasting damage to Iran´s distant, dispersed and fortified
The idea that some countries with civilian atomic projects might then
use them for military purposes is commonplace, letting states keep
their options open while not necessarily violating their non-
A leaked diplomatic cable from 2008 quoted senior U.S. State
Department official John Rood saying Japan was "not a nuclear
threshold country ... but rather is ´over the threshold´ and could
develop nuclear weapons quickly if it wanted to" should it feel the
need to vie with its nuclear-armed Asian neighbors.
Barak, who leads the sole centrist party in Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu´s conservative coalition government, has in the past
sounded sanguine about Israel´s ability to deter a nuclear-armed Iran
But with an Israeli election expected in September, and given Iran´s
nuclear advances as well as Western war jitters, Barak has publicly
closed ranks with the hawkish Netanyahu.
In Friday´s interview with the pro-government daily, Barak said Iran
might regard trying to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons as worth
the risk of catastrophic retaliation.
Under such thinking, he said, "after the exchange of strikes, Islam
would remain and Israel would no longer be what it was."
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by
Crispian Balmer, Angus MacSwan and Vicki Allen) (© Thomson Reuters
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