As Iran continues its development of a nuclear weapon, Israel is growing more concerned that the Islamic Republic will embrace a policy of ambiguity, similar to the policy upheld in Israel regarding its own alleged nuclear capabilities.

“The possibility that Iran would adopt such a policy is growing,” a senior government official involved in defense-related issues told The Jerusalem Post.

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On Monday, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will arrive for talks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak that will focus on the Iranian nuclear challenge as well as US efforts to help Israel retain its qualitative military edge in the Middle East.

Panetta will be met by an honor guard at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv and will later in the day lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Panetta’s visit comes after a visit last week by Adm. James Stavridis, commander of the United States European Command (EUCOM).

Iran has mastered the fuel enrichment stage of its nuclear program and has proven its ability to enrich uranium to as high as 20 percent. General assessments are that if it so decides, it would take Iran just a number of months for it to enrich a sufficient quantity of uranium to over the 90% that would be required for one nuclear device.

Another alarming element for Israel is Iran’s announcement last month that it is moving a cascade of advanced centrifuges to the Fordo facility dug inside a mountain near Qom that Barak said in 2009 was immune to standard air strikes.

The current assessment in Israel is that Iran is working to accumulate a large quantity of low-enriched uranium that will enable it at a later stage to reprocess the material and enrich a larger quantity to higher levels and manufacture a number of nuclear devices.

“Iran very well could continue on its current course for a while, during which it continues to enrich uranium like it is today but without going to the breakout stage and publicly making a nuclear weapon,” the senior official said.

If that were to happen, the concern in Israel is that Iran would not immediately declare that it has developed a nuclear device – assuming that it did so without expelling international inspectors from Natanz – to avoid providing the world with the justification to either increase sanctions or to use military action to stop it.

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