The chance for a military strike to succeed in stopping Iran’s race toward a
nuclear weapon is becoming “slimmer” as Tehran continues to produce and disperse
its enriched uranium and technology, according to Prof. Avner Cohen, a
premier Israeli-American scholar on nuclear proliferation.
“I think we
are moving to the point that the chance of success for doing something effective
militarily is getting slimmer,” Cohen warned in an interview with The Jerusalem
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“The fact that the Iranian nuclear program is further dispersed,
that the time for Iran to reach a breakout capability gets shorter and that
material can be moved quickly from site to site, would require a very dynamic
intelligence capability to know where everything is,” he said.
professor and senior fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies
in California, Cohen has written two groundbreaking books on Israel’s nuclear
program – Israel and the Bomb
and The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with
Furthermore, according to Cohen, even if Israel had all of the
intelligence it would still be impossible “to know that you know everything
important since you do not know what you do not know.”
Israel and other
Western countries have expressed concern in the past that Iran might have
additional undeclared nuclear facilities.
Cohen stressed that he did not
currently advocate military action.
At the same time, he said that Iran’s
“salami approach” – dispersing its enriched uranium to a number of facilities,
its general policy of making only small and invisible-like advances in its
program, as well as its proven ability to enrich uranium to 20 percent levels –
showed that “Iran is not only positioning itself on the bomb threshold, but it
appears to gear itself to slowly crossing the threshold and becoming a nuclear
Iran recently announced that it is moving an advanced new
centrifuge into the Fordo facility near Qom.
“Some Americans with access
to intelligence believe that the window for the military option is closing and
growing slimmer,” he said.
Cohen said that Iran was working under a
policy of nuclear ambiguity, similar to Israel’s policy, under which Israel
neither confirms nor denies its nuclear status. Like Israel, he said that Iran
could eventually redefine what it means to be a nuclear state.
the Post reported
on concerns within Israel that Iran was adopting such a
“Given the increasing quantities that Iran is enriching to 20%,
they are increasingly shortening the time they need to reach the so-called
breakout stage, which means that the warning time is getting shorter and shorter
to the point that it becomes meaningless,” he said. “Their opacity policy aims
to blur and obscure the very issue of possession and non-possession of nuclear
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s visit to Israel
week, Cohen said, was likely part of an American effort to ensure that Israel is
not planning any unilateral military steps that would not be coordinated first
“The US wants itself, and also Israel, to be engaged in
a thorough effort to contain Iran – like the way the Soviet Union was contained
during the Cold War – meaning that for all practical purposes and short of
extreme circumstances, both the US and Israel would have to put aside the
military option and instead work to contain Iran,” Cohen said.
sense is that something happened in recent weeks which was interpreted as if
Israel had made clear that the military option is alive and kicking, and Panetta
wanted to make sure that Israeli independent action will not happen,” he said.