“I came back from a trip to Israel in November convinced that Israel would attack Iran,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and senior adviser to three US presidents, George W. Bush among them, told the American Newsweek magazine in an article published Friday.
Citing conversations he had in Israel with officials in Mossad and the Israeli defense establishment, Riedel concluded that “Israel is not going to allow its nuclear monopoly to be threatened.”
While some US experts doubt Israel’s ability to tackle Iran alone, David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, was quoted by Newsweek as saying that although information on the exact location of Iran’s nuclear facility is incomplete, Israel’s air strike on an alleged Syrian nuclear facility on September 6, widely discussed in foreign media outlets, could be seen as a test run for any future strike on Iran’s facilities, as well as a direct warning to Teheran.
Riedel told the magazine his impression that Israel would venture a strike on Iran on its own was formed before the publication of the joint US intelligence agencies’ report, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). “This [the NIE] makes it [a strike on Iran] even more likely,” he said.
Since the publication of the NIE, which reversed a previous American assessment by concluding that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, leaders worldwide have been adjusting their publicly stated positions on the Iranian nuclear issue.
Even inside the US, President Bush attempted some damage control by stating a day after the report’s publication that “Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous.”
In Israel, responses to the report ranged from subtle criticism of the report’s conclusions to outright slamming of the US intelligence community’s capabilities, so much so that on last Sunday’s cabinet meeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed his ministers to refrain from commenting any further on the report.
In the international scene, Russia’s decision to renew fuel shipments to Iran main nuclear facility at Bushehr was interpreted by many anlysts as stemming directly from the NIE’s publication; another development possibly stemming from the report is Russia and China’s hardened position on further sanctions against Teheran.
In Teheran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quick to capitalize on the NIE, calling it an “Iranian victory” and demanding that the United States publicly apologize for its previous bellicose stance.
Uzi Arad, a former Mossad official and adviser to opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, told Newsweek that on a recent trip to Moscow, a Russian general poked fun at the naiveté of the NIE, commenting that if the Iranians had halted weapons development in 2003 it was partly because they were satisfied with progress there and wanted to devote investment to harder parts of the nuclear equation, like enrichment.
“The irony is that the effect of this report may be self-negating – by itself it will accelerate Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons,” Arad told the magazine