Olmert to Obama: By late 2009, early 2010 Iran will be able to assemble nuclear bomb
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert told visiting US Senator Barack Obama Wednesday night, July 23 that within little more than a year, Iran would be able to assemble all the components for a nuclear bomb. He said the international penalties to force Iran to give up its nuclear plans must be speeded up without removing the military option from the table.
Earlier, senior Israeli defense sources reported that Iran is set to receive Russian S-300 anti-air missiles for fighting off strikes against its nuclear facilities by early September, seriously complicating any air attack.
debkafile‘s military sources note that this was the second statement in four days by Israeli security sources, stressing the need for expeditious action to preempt Iran’s military nuclear progress.
It is not by chance that this latest statement coincided with the visit by the Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. He spoke in general about his commitments on Iran if he wins the race to the White House. This second Israeli statement indicated a specific time frame for action.
The Israeli sources, who refused to be named, said the first delivery of S-300 missile batteries was expected as soon as early September, weeks away, and could take six-to 12 months to be deployed and made operable.
“There is no doubt,” he said, “that the S-300s would make an air attack more difficult.
This assessment clashed with a statement by US defense secretary Robert Gates who said on July 9 “… it’s highly unlikely that those air defense missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon.” Gates is known to be a firm objector to a US or Israeli military operation against Iran’s nuclear sites.
Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who is spending a week in Washington will no doubt update American officials on Israel’s latest intelligence on Iran’s plans.
Saturday night, July 20, an Israeli “security-political official” estimated that if diplomatic efforts to bring Iran to give up uranium enrichment failed, President George W. Bush would order Iran attacked between the November 4 presidential election and his exit from the White House in January. The quote was aired shortly after the six-power talks with Iran in Geneva – with US official participation for the first time – ended without an answer from Tehran.
One of the purposes of the Israeli air force drill over the Mediterranean last month, widely seen as a dress rehearsal for a possible raid on Iran, was to practice passes against the S-300 batteries which Greece acquired from Russia via Cyprus.