DEBKAfile Special Report January 15, 2013, 10:56 AM (GMT+02:00)
Earlier Monday, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz ceremonially installed Maj. Gen. Gady Eisenkott as deputy C.-of-S, after the state attorney had approved his taking up the post irregularly in the middle of an election campaign in view of Israel’s security situation.
When the AG made that decision some days ago, a decision by Syrian President Bashar Assad to attack Israel with chemical weapons was taken into account as a possibility. Not that the danger is over, only that it was pushed into a quiet corner by the statements made last Friday, Jan. 11 by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey.
They explained at a joint news conference in Washington that if Assad chose to use his chemical stockpiles, it would be virtually impossible for US intelligence to detect it in advance or to stop him. “You would have to actually see it before it happened," said Dempsey.
However, not so longer ago, last August, the same Secretary Panetta and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said they were certain that if Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave the order to build a nuclear bomb, “…we will know it, we and you and some other intelligence services will know about it…”
However, the latest comment on the Syrian chemical threat also lets the cat out of the bag on another WMD menace lurking in wait for the region. Because, if US intelligence finds itself unable to detect an Assad order for a chemical attack, how can they be sure to know when Iran starts building a nuclear bomb? The answer is they can’t.
Anticipating this question, the Obama administration had its answer ready.
Monday, the Institute for Science and International Security’s president, David Albright, a proliferation expert who often represents thinking in US security and intelligence agencies, presented a 154-page report in Washington titled “Strategy for US Nonproliferation in the Changing Middle East” He was one of the co-chairs of this project which once again shifted all the way to mid-2014 the key timeline for Iran to be able “to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or bombs without detection by the West.”
President Barack Obama is obviously preparing for his second term in office a policy that lines up his Middle East unconventional weapons ducks - Syrian chemical and Iranian nuclear – under the same revised estimate. Contrary to previous official US statements, Albright now establishes that US intelligence is incapable of pinning down the moment when Iran starts assembling a nuclear bomb, any more than it can detect the Syrian order to embark on chemical warfare.
Therefore, a preemptive operation is out and people must get ready to wake up one morning to find Iran has carried out its first nuclear test, in the same way as they must expect to be surprised by Bashar Assad’s launch of a chemical attack. Only then, may Washington and Jerusalem begin wondering what to do.
But to stave off that moment, Obama still hopes the secret negotiations he initiated with Iran last month plus stiff sanctions (so for ineffective for slowing down Iran’s nuclear progress) will do the trick of holding Tehran back from building a bomb. Failing this result, the Albright report provides him – and Iran - with another eighteen months’ grace.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources affirm that this new estimate may be convenient for some but it is false: Iran already has enough enriched uranium – produced or procured - for building at least five nukes. This is no secret. Wednesday, Jan. 9, the Financial Times reported that a stock of 5 tonnes of un-enriched uranium, enough to produce weapons-grade fuel for five atomic devices, had gone missing in Syria and may have passed to Iran. The stock had been prepared for the nuclear reactor Bashar Assad was building at Al-Kibar in eastern Syria before it was destroyed by Israel in 2007. The information was based on British intelligence sources.
The nuances in Netanyahu’s current reference to the Iranian nuclear threat suggest that he too is aware of the new winds blowing in Washington. In his latest statement, he departed from his standard assertion that his government would not permit Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and said instead: “The government which I head has invested billions to prepare the country for the Iranian threat.”