A possible military confrontation with Iran may be postponed until 2013, senior
defense officials said in recent weeks amid growing signs that the West’s
economic crackdown on Iran is bearing fruit.
In addition, while
skeptical, the defense establishment is waiting to see what the outcome will be
of the talks expected to begin in mid-April between the Islamic Republic and the
P5+1 group comprised of the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and
“It could happen this year, but also 2013 is a possibility,” a
senior official said recently.
“We will need to wait to see the effect
sanctions and diplomacy have on Iran and what the regime decides to
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acknowledged that
sanctions were hurting Iran but that it was not yet clear if they would succeed
in ultimately stopping Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
potentially change Israel’s timeline would be an Iranian decision to begin
enriching uranium to higher military-grade levels and to begin building a
Western intelligence agencies closely track Iran’s enrichment
program as well as the so-called weapons group, which would assemble the device
if ordered to do so by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
the US are in agreement that Khamenei has yet to give the order to go to the
“breakout stage” by beginning the enrichment of high-grade uranium and the
building of a nuclear device.
Intelligence officials in Israel and the US
have voiced confidence that they would know if Iran decides to move to the stage
of manufacturing a nuclear weapon. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan recently said
that if Iran was, for example, to begin enriching uranium to 90-percent levels
and was not stopped, then Israel would need to use military force to stop
The current disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem is over the
point of no return for such a strike.
The US, like Dagan, argues that the
threat will only become imminent once Iran begins enriching high-grade uranium,
a clear indication that it is moving toward weaponization.
Israel, led by
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, argues that – due to Iran’s move into a so-called
immunity zone, or point when its facilities will be fortified and protected – an
Israeli strike might not be viable for much longer, and therefore one might be
needed even before high-grade enrichment begins.