Hours after an Israeli newspaper quoted a government security source saying that Iran already has at least one nuclear bomb, Israel’s leading Arab affairs analyst offered only a slightly less dramatic assessment, saying the regime in Tehran was no more than “one to two months away” from having sufficient 92% enriched uranium to build its first bomb.
Ehud Yaari, the veteran analyst of Israel’s top-rated Channel 2 TV News, added that Iran also had more sophisticated centrifuges becoming available soon that could cut that time down to just “two or three weeks.”
On the same program, military analyst Roni Daniel derided the possibility of the “weak” US President Barack Obama holding firm in the face of the charm offensive mounted by new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani during his first foray onto the global stage at the UN General Assembly this week. Israel retained the capability to thwart Iran’s attainment of nuclear weapons, Daniel said.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, speaking from the UN, said the world should not “melt” in the face of Rouhani’s new moderate rhetoric, and that it was vital that the international community not “forget” the imperative to stop Iran getting the bomb.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who held unprecedented talks Thursday with his US counterpart John Kerry, posted a Facebook message saying Israel was “isolated” in its hard line on Iran. Under orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who himself will speak at the General Assembly on Tuesday, the Israeli delegation boycotted Rouhani’s General Assembly speech last Tuesday — the only delegation to do so. Netanyahu has warned the world not to be “fooled” by Iran’s moderate rhetoric.
Rouhani has made plain this week that Iran seeks to have economic sanctions lifted. Yaari said Friday that Rouhani wants to freeze the nuclear program at a level that would enable it to break out to the bomb within weeks if it so chose.
Earlier Friday, the Maariv daily quoted government analysts saying that the Islamic Republic already possesses at least one bomb.
The paper’s Shalom Yerushalmi wrote that “government security sources up to date on development in Iran,” told him recently that Tehran has crossed all points of no return and already has its first nuclear weapon, and maybe more.
That report marked the first time a government official had been quoted saying Iran already has a nuclear weapon. No sources in the piece were named.
The information, if true, would mark a major shift in international relations and would be a game changer in terms of a regional power balance.
“It’s too late for Israel [to prevent an Iranian bomb]. Iran has crossed all the borders and all the constraints, and it has a first nuclear bomb in its possession, and maybe more than that,” Yerushalmi wrote, basing himself on what he says is the assessment he heard this week from state security sources. ”We are facing a historic change in the strategic balance of forces in the region.”
He then quoted a source who he says is deeply familiar with what he calls the relentless war against the Iranians. “This is no longer about how to prevent a bomb,” the source was quoted saying, “but about how to prevent its being launched, and what to do if and when.”
Yerushalmi, still basing himself on the anonymous security sources’ assessment, went on to compare the current behavior of Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and Rouhani, in their interactions with the West, to a soccer coach at the end of a hard-fought match which he knows he has now won. The Iranian leadership is behaving with the air of “those who have achieved their target, and therefore can today afford to be more generous and to offer new (self-serving) messages.” The Iranian leadership can afford to be friendlier, he wrote, “because victory has been secured.”
Maariv led its Friday paper with a photograph of a smiling Rouhani, alongside the headline, “What’s hiding behind the smile,” and a sub-headline quoting the security sources saying Iran now has “at least one bomb.” It then added that most in the security establishment, however, still believes that this “nightmare scenario has not yet been realized.”
While most Western countries believe Iran’s nuclear program is intended for military purposes, officials in Israel, the US and elsewhere say Tehran has yet to “break out” toward a bomb, a process that could take over a year.
Iran, which on Thursday agreed to renewed talks with world powers on curbing its nuclear program, says its program is for peaceful purposes.
Iranian and UN officials held what they said was a “constructive” meeting on Friday in New York, and agreed to meet again on October 28.