Buried deep in the New York Times article about the Stuxnet virus apparently infecting computers at Iranian nuclear facilities was a peek at Israel’s assessment of Iran’s alleged drive towards a nuclear weapon. In the piece, mentioned in today’s Talking Points, John Markoff and David Sanger wrote:
Yossi Melman, who covers intelligence for the newspaper Haaretz and is at work on a book about Israeli intelligence over the past decade, said in a telephone interview that he suspected that Israel was involved [in the Stuxnet virus].
He noted that Meir Dagan, head of Mossad, had his term extended last year partly because he was said to be involved in important projects. He added that in the past year Israeli estimates of when Iran will have a nuclear weapon had been extended to 2014.
“They seem to know something, that they have more time than originally thought,” he said.
While neoconservatives in the U.S. and their allies on the Israeli right speak often about how Iran is on the cusp of nuclear weapons capability, this seems not to be the case — even by the estimates of Israeli intelligence.
As my colleague in the House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, warned last week, we are talking about months, not years.
Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been talking for years about how an Iranian bomb was right aoround the corner. He started up this meme as early as 1995 — 15 years ago — with his book “Fighting Terrorism.” Phil Weiss has the key quote from Netanyahu, way back when (with my emphasis):
The best estimates at this time place Iran between three and fve years away from possessing the prerequisites required for the independent production of nuclear weapons. After this time, the Iranian Islamic republic will have the ability to construct atomic weapons without the importation of materials or technology from abroad.
If the Israeli intelligence estimate is to be believed, either these characters have a very distorted sense of time — 15 Earth years equals no time at all for Netanyahu — or they are promoting an alarmist time frame in the pursuit of an agenda.
(H/T Mid East Brief)