News / Middle East

US Concerns Grow Over Possible Israeli Strike on Iran

Iranian students form a human chain around the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility in support of Iran's nuclear program, just outside the city of Isfahan, 410 kilometers (255 miles) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Nov. 15, 2011 (file photo).
Iranian students form a human chain around the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility in support of Iran's nuclear program, just outside the city of Isfahan, 410 kilometers (255 miles) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Nov. 15, 2011 (file photo).
Gary Thomas

Talk of a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is again rumbling in Tehran, Jerusalem, and Washington. Israel is reported to be increasingly anxious about Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program and at least one U.S. official is reported to be warning that an Israeli attack is not far off.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, January 5, 2012 (file photo).
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, January 5, 2012 (file photo).

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says the world is running out of time to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power.  U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is reported to believe Israel could launch strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities within the next five months. 

Iranian officials deny any intention to build nuclear weapons and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned Friday Iran will retaliate in full force if its nuclear facilities are attacked.

But there are differences between the U.S. and Israel over how to deal with the situation. 
A 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran - the highest collective judgment of all U.S. intelligence agencies - said that while Iran was making technical advances, it had not yet committed to actually assembling nuclear weapons.

In a 2009 VOA interview, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta predicted Iran could have a nuclear bomb sometime between 2010 and 2015, but had not yet decided whether to take that final step.

"Well, our view is and our intelligence is that while they are proceeding to develop a nuclear capability in terms of power and low-grade uranium that there's still very much a debate going on within Iran as to whether they should proceed further," Panetta said at the time.

Iran Intelligence Revised

A revised intelligence estimate last year came to the same conclusion about Iran's nuclear program, U.S. officials said.

"They (the Iranians) are certainly moving on that path, but we don't believe they've actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon," James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told a congressional committee on Tuesday.

But the view is very different in Jerusalem, where Iran's nuclear program is seen as a threat to Israel's very existence.   

Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, writing in the prestigious New York Times Magazine Jan. 25, quoted top officials in Jerusalem as saying that Israel could not wait much longer before striking Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iran has so far enriched uranium to a level of 20 percent purity.  Experts say Iran would have to reach at least 90 percent to use it in a weapon.

"If Iran is indeed enriching to bomb grade - and I haven't seen anything suggesting that we know that they are or that we strongly suspect that they are - then they're that much closer to the proverbial one screw turn away (from a bomb)," Thomas Fingar, former chairman of the U.S. intelligence Council, told VOA this week.  

"Uranium is the critical dimension, and in the time line that was laid out in the public portion of the 2007 estimate, we're in the window, the first half of this decade," Fingar added.

Washington Prefers Sanctions

The Obama administration is opposed to any military action against Iran at this time, and is instead counting on stiffer international sanctions against Iran's critical oil industry to force Tehran away from any weapons development.  

Fingar backs that strategy, adding that a preemptive attack on Iran could backfire.

"If it's correct that Tehran has not yet made the decision to go for a bomb, attacking the facilities would seem to greatly increase the likelihood of rallying the (Iranian) public behind not just the nuclear program and the government, but the need to have an independent deterrent capability, a nuclear deterrent capability," Fingar said.  

Intelligence analysts say it is difficult to determine when Iran crosses the so-called "red line" into nuclear weapons production because so much of the technical work is "dual use" - usable for both military and peaceful purposes.

CIA Director David Petraeus told a congressional committee this week a key indicator would be if Iran begins enriching uranium to 90 percent purity.

"There's no commercial use for that arguably- in fact, not arguably," Petraeus said. "I think factually the amount of 20 percent enriched uranium that they have exceeds any requirement, for example, for the Tehran Research Reactor for the foreseeable future."

But while Washington has publicly spelled out its so-called "red line" on Iranian nuclear development, Israel has not.

Some U.S. officials worry that the "red line" for Israel may be when Iran moves key sections of its nuclear facilities to hardened underground sites out of the reach of missiles and bombs.

Whatever its threshold, Israeli Defense Minister Barak said this week Israel cannot wait until it is reached.  "Whoever says later," Barak told a gathering of security experts, "may find out that 'later' is too late."

As if to emphasize his point for a Western audience, he switched from Hebrew to English for the phrase.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs