Iran could potentially build a nuclear bomb within four to six months, passing the "red line" set by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the spring or summer of 2013, said former Israeli Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin on Monda.
- Israel Will Rue Syria Air Strike, Says Iran
- 'Iran May Not Be Boasting on Nuke Advance'
- Iran Nuke Talks to Resume on Feb. 26
- Yadlin: Kerry, Hagel Appointments Send a 'Bad Signal' on U.S. Policy Toward Iran
- James Kirchick / Are Shoah Deniers Rational?
- PM: Iran Closer to Nuke 'Red Line'
When asked what Iran's "breakthrough capabilities" might be – meaning between when it decides to create a nuclear bomb and when it would actually be in possession of the weapon – Yadlin said: "Today, the breakthrough capability is between four and six months." He also said that Iran has in recent years already completed all of the necessary components that would enable it to create a nuclear bomb.
A diplomatic agreement between Western powers and Iran could significantly delay that period of time to up to two years, he added. Yadlin said that Iran had already slowed its pace of nuclear progress in 2012, when it converted some of its enriched uranium into fuel rods.
Yadlin delivered these remarks during a press conference at Tel Aviv's Institute of National Security Studies, where he serves as director.Yadlin's address to the press at the INSS on Monday included a number of points about Middle East stability.
Regarding the crisis in Syria, Yadlin said that the prolonged civil war there has actually been a favorable development for Israel's national security.
"The most significant army along our borders, the Syrian army, which is an advanced army with a very large arsenal of long-range missiles and rockets and with Russian-made air defenses that are among the most advanced in the world, is wearing itself down," said Yadlin. "Its operational capability to act against Israel declines every week that goes by."
"This is a positive development both from the military aspect, but also from the political aspect," Yadlin continued. "The radical anti-Israel axis that goes through Tehran, Damascus, Beirut, and Gaza is falling apart."
Yadlin believes that the day after President Bashar Assad's regime falls, Syria will have its hands tied rehabilitating itself. Consequently, he expects that Syria's military strength, after being degraded in the ongoing civil war "will be oriented inward and not outward."
Yadlin also said that current senior IDF officers' assessment that a destabilized security situation similar to the current one in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula will develop on Israel's northern border is a threat that "tends to be exaggerated" and a "limited one that Israel has known how to deal with in the past."
Due to the declining threat posed by the Syrian army, and especially if there is no need for a military solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, experts at INSS believe there is a renewed need to examine the IDF's force building plans to adapt them to the changing reality in the Middle East. Some INSS researchers also believe that it would be possible to cut the defense budget while maintaining Israel's military preparedness.
During the conference at the INSS on Monday, Yadlin also spoke about current status of the Palestinian Authority. According to Yadlin, while the PA's poor financial status poses a challenge to Israel but there is no chance Hamas will take over the West Bank by force, due to the massive presence of Israeli security forces in the West Bank along with the activities of the Palestinian security apparatus.
Nevertheless, Yadlin did state that the possibility exists that Hamas will take control of political institutions in the PA, something that will hang over Israel's head in the coming year.
To address this threat, Yadlin said, Israel must renew the peace process with the PA.
"Israel needs to take the initiative and lay a peace plan on the table that will allow the renewal of negotiations," said Yadlin. Even if the talks fail, it will provide the benefit of ending the freeze in the peace process, Yadlin added. In which case, he said, Israel should unilaterally determine its borders based on lessons learned from previous unilateral steps.