(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Teheran is very close to obtaining the technology necessary to build nuclear weapons, but the chances are very low that Israel's enemies will start a major war on its borders, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said on Tuesday.
"Iran is intentionally advancing its nuclear development in such a way so as not to cross any nuclear red lines, by enriching low-grade uranium that is not sufficient for weapons development, but that can quickly be adapted to weapons-grade uranium in such a short period of time that the process can't be sabotaged," he said, during his presentation of the IDF's intelligence assessment for 2009-2010 to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Yadlin said Israel and moderate Arab states had common goals regarding the struggle between extremists and moderates in the Middle East, and many moderate states understood the Iranian threat to regional stability.
Iran was "enabling the strengthening of Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah and their military capabilities, with an emphasis on reducing the IDF's tactical advantage," he said.
To that end, Israel's enemies are arming themselves with improved anti-aircraft weapons and improving the accuracy and range of missiles meant to target Israel's home front.
Although he maintained there was "a low likelihood of wide-scale war initiated by our enemies, mostly because of Israel's strong deterrence," Yadlin didn't rule out the possibility of a rapid escalation to war that wasn't desired by either side.
Regarding Gaza, the Military Intelligence chief said that following Operation Cast Lead, Hamas had "slowed down the process of amassing force," and that Israel had evidence that Hamas was trying to internalize the lessons learned during the operation and improve its preparedness.
Also on Tuesday, reports circulated that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were deploying mobile launchers for surface-to-air and surface-to-sea missiles in the Strait of Hormuz and elsewhere in the Gulf.
An Iranian official was quoted anonymously in the Saudi daily Al-Watan saying that Iranian forces were responding to secret reports that the United States and Israel were working on a military strike against the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities.
The source said the missiles had been deployed a few weeks ago. Iran is said to have reassured its neighbors that the missiles were not aimed at states in the region, a reference to Sunni Arab states such as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which has a Shi'ite majority but a Sunni government.
Sunni Gulf states are allied with the US and share Western concerns over Shi'ite Iran's nuclear plans. Bahrain, for example, is closer to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant than Teheran is. Any strike on the facility would affect Bahrainis more than Iran's center of power.
Hady Amr, director of the Brookings Doha Center, said there were too many variables at play in the region to draw conclusions as to the deployment's underlying meaning. Amr spoke of the Obama administration's disposition toward dialogue with Teheran, shifting alliances in the US dialogue with Syria, the Iranian presidential elections on June 12 and the global financial crisis, which has made both the Islamic republic and the Gulf states less secure.
On several occasions, Iran has expressed displeasure over potential US bases in its Arab neighbors' territories.
"This may be part of their muscle-flexing in that regard," Amr told The Media Line, "to make sure that the Gulf states hosting American and French bases understand that there will be a price to pay."
The reports of missile deployments coincide with Washington's declared intentions to bridge the rift with Teheran.
The Media Line News Agency contributed to this report.