Discovery of Iran's secret uranium enrichment facility near Qom several months ago is a "warning sign" for anyone who thinks that the Islamic Republic's nuclear program is for civilian purposes, head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said Tuesday.
Speaking at a conference on security challenges in the 21st century at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Yadlin said that Iran is extremely close to mastering the necessary nuclear technology and will wait on the threshold until it feels that the international community is too weak to stop them to move forward towards the bomb.
Iran, he said, already has enriched 1.7 tons of low enriched uranium at its facility in Natanz, which is enough for a nuclear weapon. On Monday, London newspaper The Times revealed that Iran had been testing a neutron initiator, the component needed to trigger an explosion in a nuclear weapon.
"They are also improving long-range missiles with solid fuel propellant, are also developing nuclear detonators and taking other steps that do not fit the Iranian claim that its program is for civilian purposes," he said.
Yadlin said that it appeared that the diplomatic efforts to stop Iran had failed and that the time had come for the international community to impose tough sanctions on the regime. He rejected the claim that sanctions would unite the Iranian people behind the regime and said that the post-election demonstrations in June were proof that there was a deep fissure between the people and the regime.
Yadlin also said that if peace was made between Israel and Syria, the threats to Israel could decrease and further isolate Iran.
"[Syrian President Bashar] Assad is not naturally part of the radical axis," he said. "They are a secular state that has not ruled out peace with Israel and if peace is obtained and the support of terror groups is stopped then this could help minimize the threat to Israel.
Nevertheless, Yadlin said that Syria was continuing to support terror organizations and interfere in internal Lebanese politics.
"Every week, Assad hosts foreign ministers from Europe and congressmen who thank him for not interfering in the elections in Lebanon," the MI chief said. "But anyone who is familiar with intelligence information knows that Assad is interfering with money and threats. While he hosts the congressmen at the front door, [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashaal slips out the back door."
He also warned that any weaponry, no matter how advanced it might be, that is in Syrian and Iranian hands could one day be delivered to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
"The difficulties the radical axis has encountered Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009 has united the axis," he said. "There are places in Iran and Syria where weapons tests are carried out and you can see Iranian and Syrian scientists next to Hizbullah operatives and even representatives from Hamas and sometimes Islamic Jihad who are invited to watch."
The ideology and doctrine, he said, came from Iran, the production of the weapons was done in Syria and the final products were then smuggled into Lebanon and Gaza.
"There are no limits today on smuggling to Hamas and Hizbullah," he said.
Despite the many threats and challenges that Israel faced, the country, Yadlin said was strong and had succeeded in bolstering its deterrence in face of Hamas and Hizbullah.
"We are celebrating this Hanukah as a strong country," he said, adding that the past year was an unprecedented period of quiet for Israel.
"There were questions as to whether Cast Lead would be effective and today it is quiet and Hamas doesn't fire and prevents other groups as well," he said. "Hizbullah is also keeping the border in the north quiet."
Yadlin also warned of a new front Israel was facing - Cyber Warfare - which he said with the right knowledge and technology could allow countries or terror groups to disable basic infrastructure. The US, he said, recently established a special Cyber Warfare Command and NATO has also established a special taskforce to counter the threat.
"It is difficult to know how this will affect a war, but it gives small countries abilities that used to be only in the hands of large superpowers," he said.