Israel on Iran
A newly released State Department cable from November 2009 reveals the Israeli military’s growing worries about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and Tehran’s support for regional terrorists in seeking “Hamastan” and “Hezbollahstan” enclaves.
During a meeting with Assistant Defense Secretary Alexander Vershbow, several Israeli defense officials said the Israelis “continued to emphasize that Iran represents the greatest strategic threat to the region, both its nuclear program and its ‘axis’ with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas,” according to the cable, which was published by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The cable, labeled “secret,” stated that Israel continued to promote a worst-case scenario for Iran’s nuclear arms program “emphasizing that the window for stopping the program (by military means if necessary) is rapidly closing.”
According to Israeli Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Defense Ministry intelligence analysis, Iran could have a nuclear weapon in one year and three weapons in 2 1/2 years.
“By 2012, Iran would be able to build one weapon within weeks and an arsenal within six months,” the cable said, noting that “it is unclear if the Israelis firmly believe this or are using worst-case estimates to raise greater urgency from the United States.”
A second official, Amos Gilad, head of the ministry’s political military affairs unit, said nuclear weapons in the hands of the Tehran regime “would give Iran a free hand in supporting ‘HAMAStan’ in Gaza and ‘Hezbollahstan’ in Lebanon.”
Mr. Gilad also said Saudi Arabia would definitely respond to an Iranian nuclear threat by obtaining a weapon with Pakistani assistance and that Egypt “almost certainly” would follow.
Mr. Gilad was less certain that Turkey would go nuclear in response to an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
“Regardless, the security situation in the region surrounding Israel would be dramatically altered should Iran acquire a nuclear weapons capability,” the cable said.
On Iranian support for proxies, the cable said Israeli Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, assistant chief of defense, stated that Iran had “multiple bases” where Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Quds forces, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives are training together.
Gen. Gantz also “emphasized Iran’s role as a weapons supplier to Syria and that Syria actively facilitated arms transfers to Hezbollah,” the cable said. “He expressed concern about Iranian shipments of weapons via Sudan to Egypt and into Gaza.”
A separate cable from 2007 outlines Israel’s five pillars for keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, including covert action against the Islamist regime. That cable, also marked “secret,” recounts a conversation between Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Israel Mossad intelligence chief Meir Dagan on Aug. 17, 2007.
The five pillars of the strategy to block Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms are political and diplomatic efforts, covert action, counterproliferation aimed at blocking Iran’s access to technology, sanctions on Iran and forcing regime change by supporting Iranian opposition groups.