The battle over Iran’s nuclear program has loomed large again this week. Israel and Saudi Arabia are suddenly both in lockstep about stopping Iran (more precisely, they’ve both been in lockstep, just not so publicly before). Sheldon Adelson has done the conversation a massive disservice by suggesting that the U.S. drop a nuke on the Iranian desert as a negotiation tactic. Meanwhile, plans for the next round of negotiations in early November are moving tenuously forward.
To this cauldron, add a report yesterday from the Washington think tank ISIS, which seems to think Iran is close to achieving nuclear breakout capability. Very close.
“Today, Iran could break out most quickly using a three-step process with its installed centrifuges and its low-enriched uranium stockpiles as of August 2013. In this case, Iran could produce one significant quantity in as little as approximately 1.0–1.6 months, if it uses all its near 20 percent low-enriched uranium hexafluoride stockpile,” the Institute for Science and International Security wrote in a report published on its website Thursday.
Former major Israeli intelligence officials like Amos Yadlin and Meir Dagan, both of whom have been advocates for restraint on the topic of Iran (often in opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), are now offering him public support.
Dagan echoed Netanyahu’s call to keep tough sanctions against Iran in place as negotiations go forward and Yadlin, more chillingly, offered the assessment that Israeli military action might not be long in coming if this round of negotiations fails to yield a result. Asking to explain his evolution, Yadlin said this:
I supported them [Barak and Netanyahu] on the notion that if we come to the fork in the road, where we have to choose between very tough alternatives—the “bomb” or the “bombing”—I’m with prime minister, for “the bombing”. But for a decision about an Israeli attack, you need positive answers to basically four questions. The first one is, ‘can you live with the bomb?’, and no doubt the Prime Minister will say no. And second: Can your operational capabilities achieve the goal of destroying most of the program? Third, have you exhausted all the other options? As long as there is a realistic chance to achieve the “no-bomb” by negotiations, by agreements, Israel doesn’t have legitimacy to do it. I think this is now the main obstacle because Rouhani has given some backwind to the idea that maybe the Iranians will reach an acceptable agreement. Number four, do you have sufficient understanding with the United States that this is a legitimate and necessary self-defense measure? America and Israel are allies. As I explained to you once, Israel doesn’t need America on D-Day. It can do it alone. It even can cope with the day after, but it does need the United States for the decade after.
Have a good weekend.