Israeli leaders were harshly criticized on the eve of Israel’s 64th Independence Day for too much speechifying and no real action against a nuclear Iran, whereas the US in contrast finally made a move by establishing a new Pentagon spy agency for gathering intelligence inside Iran. April 24 and 25, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed memorial ceremonies for the fallen, they reiterated the same old “Israel will not permit Iran to acquire nuclear arms” – a remark which the Israeli street has stopped taking seriously. Many members of military and intelligence circles are quoted by debkafile as believing that Israel may have waited too long and, along with the US, lost the initiative.
Jerusalem and Washington are still at odds on Iran, but the theme of their dispute has shifted. It is no longer about Iran’s timeline for building a bomb, but what kind. They agree that Tehran will not possess advanced nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles capable of penetrating the US and Israeli missile defenses any time soon. Israel is now worried about more primitive devices like the ones in the North Korean and Pakistani arsenals which Israeli believes are in the final stages of constructions.
The question in Israeli intelligence circles is this: Why is the impending North Korean nuclear test considered by the US, Japan and South Korea a major menace while no one seems to care about devices identical to the one Pyongyang plans to explode on the way to operational capability.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon said publicly earlier this month that by the end of 2012, Iran would have a dirty bomb.
His disclosure drew no reactions, although it was a warning. A dirty bomb combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. Its chief danger is the spread of radioactive contamination. Cruder and cheaper to producer than a nuclear bomb, counter-terror agencies have long appreciated that it is easily transferred to terrorists. Ya’alon’s warning therefore means that Iran may soon be able to transfer dirty bombs to the Lebanese Hizballah units sitting on Israel’s northern border and the Palesinian Hamas and Jihad Islami in Gaza.
The Weekly Standard edition for publication on April 30 wrote the following sentence: “The supreme leader and his guards can have a nuclear weapon in their hands in as little as 43 days, provided Iran’s nuclear scientists have mastered the manufacture of a nuclear trigger – technically much less difficult than enrichment.”
The UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna and US intelligence officials have reported tests on nuclear materials conducted in recent weeks at the Parchin site near Tehran, to which access has been denied UN inspectors.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced was the formation of a new Pentagon spy agency called the Defense Clandestine Service. Defense Department sources said the new organization would expand the military’s intelligence and secret war efforts outside war zones in areas insufficiently covered until now, indicating deep penetration inside hostile territory, primarily Iran.
Other sources point out that by creating a new in-house Pentagon spy agency, Panetta and President Obama demonstrated their opinion of the quality of intelligence they were receiving from the CIA, of which the defense secretary was director until recently.
As for the Israeli case against Iran, security sources pointed at the new US spy agency is an example of what
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak should be doing in practice to deter Iran and make the ayatollahs sit up, instead of trotting out the same tired old phrases.