Thursday, November 8, 2007

US: 'Israel May Strike Iran'


"08/11/2007 Wednesday's statement by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran has 3,000 working uranium-enriching centrifuges "could trigger an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities," military sources were quoted by the London Times as saying.

The US military sources were cited by the Times on Thursday as saying that 3,000 centrifuges would be a "tipping point” leading Israel to act. Despite stern US warnings in recent weeks, the Times report said, the Pentagon is reluctant to strike Iran at this point, but Israel is a “different matter,” according to the US sources. “Israel could do something when they get to around 3,000 working centrifuges. The Pentagon is minded to wait a little longer,” the Times quoted one American official as saying, adding that the statement was made before Ahmadinejad's statement. On Wednesday evening, Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "We cannot take any option off the table and we need to study operational aspects." Barak also called for increased economic and diplomatic steps to be taken.

The U.S. and French presidents forged a common front against Iran's nuclear program on Wednesday. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has won U.S. praise for taking a stronger stand against Iran than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, agreed that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "unacceptable" and said there was "a need to toughen the sanctions" against Tehran. Bush has been ratcheting up his rhetoric toward Tehran and last month raised the specter of World War Three if it were allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

On Wednesday, the Iranian president declared: "We have now reached 3,000 machines." Wednesday's announcement was his first official statement that the plant is now fully operating the 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz. Earlier this week, Yossi Baidatz, head of research at the Israeli Military Intelligence, said Iran's current regime is not in danger of collapsing and may go nuclear by the end of 2009.

At the mean time, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz called for Mohamed ElBaradei to be removed as head of the UN nuclear watchdog, saying he had turned a blind eye to Iran's nuclear program. The call for ElBaradei's dismissal comes just days before the International Atomic Energy Agency is due to publish a new report on Iran's nuclear program, to serve as a key part of further discussions at the United Nations on whether to impose a third set of sanctions on Tehran.

ElBaradei had told France's Le Monde newspaper that Iran would need "between three and eight years" to develop a nuclear bomb and that there was no immediate threat or prove that the Islamic Republic is seeking a nuclear bomb.

Israel, which belongs to the UN nuclear watchdog but is not a signatory to its key Non-Proliferation Treaty, is widely considered to have the Middle East's sole -- if undeclared -- nuclear arsenal. In 1981, Israel bombed a French-built nuclear reactor in Iraq, which under the rule of Saddam Hussein was then its biggest enemy. The raid was heavily criticized by the United States and UN Security Council."

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