HH: How do you see, are we making any progress, the West, against Iran’s march to nuclear weapons?
[--> NB, on context: We must not forget that the Iranians take the Hadith on the end times, all-conquering Black Flag Army from the direction of Khorasan (E Iran and neighbouring areas) seriously, as well as Shiite traditions on the re-emergence of the 12th Imam as the key Islamic eschatological figure, the Mahdi. Ahmadinejad and co see Iran as the vanguard of the anticipated Islamic subjugation of the whole world under the final Caliph, the Mahdi. Joel Richardson makes a telling comparison with Biblical eschatology, here. (Observe my assessment of his overall arguments, here.) It is well worth the time to read the whole online draft of one of his books here on. Notice, the link to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the truth vs IslamIST myths about Jerusalem, here. As well, we should observe comments on Wehner's assessment of Jihadism as a global ideological and military threat, here. Cf. also earlier KF blog posts, here and here.]
MO: Well, the sanctions have proven very effective in taking a chunk out of the Iranian economy. They sent the Iranian currency into something like a freefall. So that has been effective. What we haven’t seen is a major impact on the Iranian nuclear program. And on the contrary, according to the United Nations, the Iranian nuclear program has been accelerating. And during the period of the negotiations, in particular, they keep on spinning out enriched uranium, and advancing their programs significantly. And as Prime Minister Netanyahu has said, we don’t have a lot of time. It may not be days or weeks, but it’s not years, either.
HH: When you talk about that window when they can go critical, one of the things that Dan Raviv in particular says is that many in the Israeli intelligence community are worried about a sort of sprint to nuclearlization and weaponization, that the Iranians will feel the jaws closing in on the economy, and they’ll turn everyone loose on doing this. Have you seen signs of that?
MO: No, we haven’t seen signs of an actual sprint, but they’re moving up all the pieces to a point where they’re sort of at a starter’s line, if you want to extend the metaphor. They’re moving all those pieces up to the starter’s line, so when they have the sprint, they can move this program very quickly forward. And the more time they have to move those pieces and prepare them, then the shorter the sprint will be. There’s an institute in Washington here, right from where I’m speaking, called the Bipartisan Research Institute that said about six, seven months ago, that if the Iranians decide to break out or sneak out, they can get a deliverable device, nuclear device, within 54 days. And within a year, that period will be reduced to 12 days.
MO: So that was, oh, more than half a year ago they said that, so the Iranian program today, according to that institute, would be something like 25 days. So the sprint is also getting shorter and shorter in distance . . . .
[G]iven [Israel's] capabilities, our timetable is much more limited that the United States timetable is, and it’s not determined by the American elections. It’s not determined even by the tempo of the contacts with the Iranians that have been going on in various capitols. It’s determined by the degree to which the Iranians are progressing on the nuclear program, moving parts of that program into fortified underground bunkers. And those are the clocks that we are looking at, and they will determine our actions. [More]