From the Jerusalem Post:
IDF: Too late to stop Teheran diplomatically
With projections that Iran could develop a nuclear bomb within the next two-and-a-half years, a high-ranking IDF officer from Military Intelligence told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend that the successful enrichment of uranium announced last week proved that diplomatic efforts to stop Teheran’s race to the bomb had failed.
“The way it looks now, it is doubtful that the United Nations and the international efforts will succeed in stopping Iran,” the high-ranking officer said. “Iran spit in the world’s face but the world hasn’t done anything.”
On Friday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired a series of verbal shots at Israel, saying it was a “permanent threat” to the Middle East that will “soon” be liberated, and questioning the validity of the Holocaust.
“Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation,” Ahmadinejad said at the opening of a three-day conference in support of the Palestinians attended by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and other Hamas members. “The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm,” he said.
Although Israel had no official response to Ahmadinejad, Shimon Peres said that the Iranian president’s words were reminiscent of those of Saddam Hussein, and that his “end will be similar.”
Peres issued a statement saying that Ahmadinejad “represents Satan, and not God.” History, he said, has denounced “madmen and those who wave the sword, and all those who acted this way ended their careers accordingly.”
With that, Peres said that Israel needed to let the US and the international community lead the campaign to protect the world from the Iranian leader.
In an Israel Radio interview, Peres said Saturday that “Iran is a United Nations member state threatening another UN member state, and the international organization will not let this go unheeded.”
“The Iranian president is uniting the entire world against him,” he said. “Israel is following his statements and actions closely, but does not wish to respond to them.”
Indeed, the Foreign Ministry had no response Saturday night to Ahmadinejad’s comments.
On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had passed one of the major hurdles in its race to obtain nuclear power and had, for the first time, successfully enriched uranium.
But while only a battery of 164 centrifuges was used to enrich the uranium to 3.5 percent, according to the IDF officer it was only a matter of time before Iran obtained technology allowing for the operation of thousands of centrifuges over a period of several months which could produce highly-enriched uranium at 90% – the amount needed for a nuclear bomb.
The officer noted that Iran was in the process of developing nuclear arms in a separate program run parallel and alongside the Islamic republic’s publicly-known and claimed-to-be civilian nuclear program.
“It is more probable that they have a second and secret plan [to develop nuclear arms] and they will copy the technology they are now developing in the open and use it in a secret location,” the officer said.
Iran, the officer predicted, would obtain independent research and development capabilities – sometimes referred to as the “point of no return” – in a matter of months, technically allowing it to move forward with its nuclear program without external assistance.
“Once they succeeded in enriching uranium at 3.5% there is nothing really technologically stopping them from enriching at 90%,” he asserted.
But after successfully enriching uranium, Iran’s next test would be to operate thousands of centrifuges for more than just a few days. “The goal is to keep them going for several months without breaking down or falling apart,” he explained. “The fact that they know how to do it for several days is not enough.”
While Israel needed to fear a nuclear attack by Iran, the threat was shared by the entire world and needed to be taken care of appropriately, the officer said. Tough and immediate sanctions could still potentially suspend and stop Iran’s nuclear program, he added.
“The diplomatic efforts made until now have been exhausted,” he said, “and it is now time for a diplomatic process with sharp teeth.”
The Iranian president provoked a world outcry last October when he said Israel should be “wiped off the map.”
On Friday, he repeated his previous line on the Holocaust, saying: “If such a disaster is true, why should the people of this region pay the price? Why does the Palestinian nation have to be suppressed and have its land occupied?”
The land of Palestine, he said, “will be freed soon.” He did not say how this would be achieved, but insisted to the audience of at least 900 people: “Believe that Palestine will be freed soon.”
“The existence of this (Israeli) regime is a permanent threat” to the Middle East, he added. “Its existence has harmed the dignity of Islamic nations.”