ISRAEL'S INNER CABINENT HOLDS EMERGENCY MEETING ON IRANIAN NUKES
The inner cabinet met Wed. Nov. 7, to discuss the shortened timeline estimate for Iran to attain a nuclear weapons capacity, based on new intelligence information. IDF intelligence chief Brig. Yossi Baidatz told the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee Tuesday that Iran would have this capacity by late 2009, whereas the previous estimate was 2010 or 2011.
Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi told a radio interviewer that the new timeline made 2008 the critical year for grappling once and for all with the Iranian program.
The new data was put before the ministers ahead of their meeting Wednesday. DEBKAfile's Washington sources report that American nuclear and intelligence experts agree on the timetable after poring over the new intelligence input. This includes materials gathered in the Israel attack of Syria's nuclear installation on Sept. 6. They have reached three key conclusions:
1. That Iran is engaged in the secret production of plutonium for nuclear weapons as well as radioactive materials for a dirty bomb, in parallel to its uranium enrichment projects. Israeli intelligence has believed this for three years, but until the operation in Syria there was no concrete evidence. This discovery is at the center of the current US-Israeli controversy with the International Atomic Energy Agency- IAEA, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei.
If he accepts the evidence, it will be an admission that his vast inspection apparatus in Vienna, whose job it is to watch out for nuclear misdemeanors across the world, missed out twice – in Iran and then in Syria. Dr. ElBaradei might then face the suspicion that his work is governed by political rather than professional motivations.
Up until now, the nuclear watchdog's chief has not sent inspectors to examine Israel's findings at the two Syrian sites targeted. He evidently fears they will come back with evidence of plutonium-related nuclear activity.
2. The working premise followed by American and Israeli intelligence is that if Syria was on the road to manufacturing plutonium, Iran must be far more advanced on this course and must be presumed to have begun manufacturing enough waste for dirty bombs and very likely also the materials for a nuclear bomb.
This premise demands a radical reassessment by the United States and Iran's Gulf and Middle East neighbors of their options for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat and essential restructuring of the Israel military's functions to meet a possible radioactive attack by Iran or its terrorist proxies close closer at hand.
3. DEBKAfile's intelligence sources report that these developments throw new light on the role of the Iranian heavy water plant at Arak and natural uranium heavy water reactor, whose capacity to produce plutonium places it at the center of Iran's nuclear program.