bush gesticulates 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Predicting Iran will obtain nuclear weapons by the end of the decade, the defense establishment's new and updated assessment for 2007 does not foresee the United States undertaking a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear installations, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The chances of an American strike are deemed "low," according to assessments by the security establishment. Israel also believes that international diplomatic efforts to stop Iran will fail, security sources said.
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In an interivew with the Post in late September, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said US President George W. Bush would prevent the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
Asked whether he felt Bush would one way or the other stop Iran going nuclear, Olmert responded: "I believe so."
In April, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Iran had passed one of the major hurdles in its race to obtain nuclear power and had, for the first time, successfully enriched uranium, a high-ranking IDF officer told the Post that Iran would obtain nuclear independence in a matter of months.
At the time, a battery of 164 centrifuges was used to enrich the uranium to 3.5 percent. To produce highly-enriched uranium at 90%, Iran would need to operate thousands of centrifuges without interruption for a period of several months.
Ahmadinejad announced plans last month to build 60,000 additional centrifuges, leading Israel to believe that it was only a matter of time before Iran developed a nuclear capability. Pakistan encountered similar difficulties in its nuclear program but eventually overcame them.
The assumption in the defense establishment is that even if sanctions were imposed on Iran today, they would not be effective in deterring the regime from continuing with its nuclear plans. The Democratic takeover of the US Senate and Congress has also led to the prediction that President George W. Bush will not be able to order a military strike.
In addition, the prediction is that Bush's administration is headed towards talks with Iran, expected to be one of the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report on America's options in Iraq to be presented to the US president on Wednesday.
The UN Security Council demanded in July that Teheran suspend enrichment, but Iran instead has expanded that work, recently setting up a second experimental chain of 164 centrifuges to produce small amounts of low-enriched uranium.
Teheran has said it intends to activate 3,000 centrifuges by late 2006 and then increase the program to 54,000 centrifuges. Iranian officials say that would produce enough enriched uranium to fuel a 1,000-megawatt reactor, such as that being built by Russia and nearing completion at Bushehr.
Experts estimate Iran would need only 1,500 centrifuges to produce a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, on Monday French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that the six powers seeking a UN resolution on Iran's nuclear program were nearing agreement on a text.
High-ranking diplomats from the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany will meet Tuesday in Paris to discuss measures to punish Iran for failing to halt the enrichment of uranium.
"We want to reach as broad an agreement as possible in the UN Security Council," Douste-Blazy said in Brussels, according to the French Foreign Ministry. "Therefore we are gathering tomorrow in Paris to discuss the text."
Douste-Blazy said he discussed the Iranian situation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
"We are in agreement with Russia to adopt sanctions against Iran's proliferation program," Douste-Blazy said.
On Friday, Lavrov reaffirmed Russia's readiness to back a UN ban on exports of nuclear materials and sensitive technologies to Iran, but said US-proposed sanctions were "too tough."
A European draft UN resolution in October would order all countries to ban the supply of materials and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. It would also impose a travel ban and asset freeze on companies, individuals and organizations involved in those programs.
The draft would exempt a nuclear power plant being built by the Russians at Bushehr, Iran but not the nuclear fuel needed for the reactor.
Russia proposed major changes that would limit sanctions solely to measures that would keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Russia would eliminate any travel ban, asset freeze, or mention of Bushehr.
"We have taken the Russian amendments into consideration," Douste-Blazy said.
AP contributed to the report.