Israel is quietly celebrating the perceived success of its five-year secret war for dramatically postponing Iran's attainment of a nuclear bomb, previously estimated at 2011. The occasion was not marked by flamboyant ceremonies or public cries of triumph by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but by a dry, inconspicuous comment which scarcely made it through two news bulletins.
Netanyahu sent Moshe Yaalon, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Strategic Affairs, former chief of staff, and one of the most hawkish members of his government, to a brief early morning national radio interview Wednesday Dec. 28, in which he offered the opinion that Western pressure (sanctions) would force Iran to consider whether its nuclear program was worth pursuing.
"I believe that this effort will grow, and will include areas beyond sanctions, to convince the Iranian regime that, effectively, it must choose between continuing to seek nuclear capability and surviving," he said. "I don’t know if it will happen in 2011 or in 2012, but we are talking in terms of the next three years."
He did not specifically mention Stuxnet or the damage it had wrought to Iran's nuclear progress – only that the Iranians had run into technical difficulties.
These difficulties "postpone the timeline," said Yaalon. "Thus we cannot talk about a 'point of no return.' Iran does not currently have the ability to make a nuclear bomb on its own. I hope it won't succeed at all and that the Western world's effort will ultimately deny Iran a nuclear capability."
North Korea must be dealt without before it helps Tehran catch up
Two US presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the Defense Secretary they shared, Robert Gates, as well as American intelligence and military chiefs, opposed an Israeli military attack on Iran's secret nuclear installations, arguing that even if they were destroyed, Iran's development of a nuclear weapon would not be put back more than two to three years. The Yaalon interview has now put Washington on notice that for the government in Jerusalem, the argument between them was over. Israel had already carried out its attack and won a respite of two to three years, leaving Washington enough time to go into action and halt the Iranian nuclear program permanently, including uranium enrichment.
The Israeli attack was not carried out with missiles, warplanes, submarines or special operations forces, but rather, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and Iranian sources revealed in two separate items in this issue, by clandestine means in the course of the secret war it waged with the United States against Iran.
The Stuxnet virus was a key weapon in this war, as were the assassinations or abductions of Iranian nuclear scientists and the creation of openings for desertions and defections.
The Israeli minister laid it on the line when he said: Today, Iran is not capable of producing a nuclear bomb on its own – meaning Israel has knocked out its ability to build a bomb unaided.
It doesn't mean that Tehran cannot go outside for help. Since North Korea is the only practical candidate for Tehran to turn for nuclear assistance, Yaalon's comment conveyed this message to Washington: We've taken care of Iran, now it's your turn to deal with Pyongyang and make absolutely sure that it does not transfer a nuclear bomb to Iran.
(This week, the White House and Pentagon decided to build up the naval, air and marines forces off the coasts of North Korea; the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which is stationed in Japan, is to be beefed up by two more carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Carl Vinson.)
According to the latest information incoming Thursday from US and South Korean intelligence sources, North Korea is planning its next nuclear test as a joint effort with Iran.
Now the delay is in place, it's up to Washington to make it permanent
Our military sources say that the concentration of three US aircraft carriers with their strike forces in a single arena signifies Washington is on the ready for a military showdown. When the number goes up to five, it means that military action is imminently in the offing.
Also worth noting is the Israeli minister's comments on the substance and scope of future American steps against Iran.
"I believe that this effort will grow, and will include areas beyond sanctions, to convince the Iranian regime that, effectively, it must choose between continuing to seek nuclear capability and surviving," he said.
This appears to be a reference to what is known as the American diplomatic-military option on Iran.
This approach was defined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Thailand on July 22, 2009.
She stated, "If the US extends a defense umbrella over the region, it's unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate, as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear weapon."
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on March 5, 2010, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski called for such an umbrella as the way to deal with Iran.
The Netanyahu government's outlook on Iran, as articulated by Ya'alon, views the American "umbrella" not as a defensive device but rather an instrument for squeezing Iran ever harder until the Islamic regime in Tehran either gives up its drive for a nuclear weapon or falls.
In other words, the secret American-Israeli war against Iran must continue at full force.