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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More