(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The worldwide economic crisis is hurting Iran's progress towards an indigenous nuclear weapon, according to OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin.
"There is a severe economic crisis in Iran," Yadlin told the cabinet meeting Monday morning. "Inflation and unemployment are very high due to oil prices and the global economic crisis. This is liable to restrain its nuclear aspirations."
Yadlin spoke about Iran in the context of a general threat assessment drawn up for the Monday cabinet meeting by the IDF Intelligence Directorate.
He stressed that Iran was not abandoning the nuclear project because of economic difficulties, but was being more cautious in its approach.
"The long-term strategic goal is attaining military nuclear capability. But the Iranians' nuclear strategy is more circumspect. Iran is working on attaining a certain amount of enriched uranium so that it will be just a few months away from the atomic bomb without paying the heavy international cost" that could be incurred if the country actually built such a bomb.
"But the transition from nuclear capability to an atomic bomb is relatively short," he warned.
Speaking of threats on Israel's northern border, Yadlin said Hizbullah was "restrained and cautious," in part out of fear of a harsh Israeli response in the midst of the run-up to elections in Lebanon.
The group also took into consideration "the need to build up its strength, its commitments to Iran," and the unwelcome tensions with Egypt, which "have left the group in a state of confusion at a bad time from its point of view, because of the elections."
"But Hizbullah is still committed to carrying out a terror attack to avenge the death of [operations chief] Imad Mughniyeh," for which the group blames Israel, he added. The group was seeking a time and mode of attack "that won't lead to an escalation," he said.
On the southern border, Yadlin told the cabinet that the Hamas government in Gaza was working hard to preserve the calm. According to the intelligence chief, recent rocket fire on Israel's western Negev "has come from fringe groups with guidance from Hizbullah or inspiration from the global jihad," not from Hamas.
He also touched on the recent visit of US Middle East envoy George Mitchell to the region and the greater American involvement in the peace process.
"The Obama administration is determined to take the lead again in the Middle East peace process - a diplomatic lead using realistic dialogue and a monitoring of the extremists," he said. "The Arab world is starting to understand that Iranian proxies are a threat to the region. Hizbullah activity in Egypt is not an isolated incident. Iran has infrastructures across the world that seek to attack Israel."
On the Syrian front, Yadlin said that Syria desires a rapprochement with the West, but "is continuing to be used as the back yard of the Axis of Evil. President Bashar Assad hopes to turn over a new leaf with US President Barack Obama," he said. But at the same time, "Assad is letting Hizbullah and Iranian forces freely conduct their affairs in Syria and use its territory for Hizbullah deployment." The IDF intelligence assessment was released to the media following the cabinet meeting.