Hours before the UN Security Council convened to vote on sanctions on Iran Tuesday, the head of Military Intelligence's Research Division warned that Iran's declared intention to wipe Israel off the map was just another step in the Islamic republic's attempt to create a new world order by obtaining nuclear weapons.
"Iran is interested not only in turning into a superpower, but also in changing the world order," Brig.-Gen Yosef Kuperwasser said at a conference entitled "Power Projection - The Needs and Challenges" at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya.
Teheran, he said, stood at the forefront of global terrorism through its support of Hizbullah, al-Qaida and Palestinian terror organizations. Iran, he said, has also been behind attacks on US forces in Iraq.
Acquiring nuclear weapons, Kuperwasser said, would establish Iran as a global superpower and reinforce its regime domestically.
"Iran believes that nuclear capability would return the regime to its former glory as well as revive the Islamic revolution," he said, adding that while a majority of the Iranian people seemed to support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's race to the bomb, there were elements in the country who believed that a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands would hinder efforts to revive the revolution.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Political-Security Bureau at the Defense Ministry, told the conference that Iran had "long-arm" capabilities like the Shihab 3 missile that could reach Israel and whose primary mission was to carry nuclear warheads. Another branch of Iran's "long-arm" was Hizbullah, which, he said, had 13,000 to 14,000 Katyusha rockets available to launch at Israel.
Gilad said Iran was vulnerable to sanctions. "Iran is not North Korea," he said. "It is a country of intelligent, intellectual people."
In a possible reference to Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres's statement Monday that Iran could also be "wiped off the map," Gilad called for Israel to refrain from placing itself at the forefront of the Iranian conflict by threatening Teheran.
"We shouldn't place ourselves at the forefront of everything and I recommend that we don't use threats," Gilad told the conference.
He later added, "Chit chat on the Iranian issue only causes damage, as does talk of military options."
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz also weighed in on Peres's remarks. He said Iran was a threat to the entire western world and not just to Israel. Peres's remarks he said, were the "maximum" an Israeli official was allowed to say without committing Jerusalem to back up words with action.
"They [Peres's remarks] were both clear and vague enough," Halutz said during a lecture at a college in Ashkelon. "I don't think that we need to jump in head-first into the Iranian problem."
Meanwhile, the head of Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that if sanctions or other roadblocks were not placed in its path, Iran would acquire nuclear weapons by 2010.
The pace of progress that Iran has exhibited to date proves that there are secret programs that Israel cannot monitor, Yadlin said. According to intelligence received by Israel, Iran began enriching uranium in January, he said. Since then, Yadlin said, Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent, a significant milestone toward the level necessary to build a bomb.
"Iran's threat to Israel must be neutralized," said committee chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima). He said Israel faced a three-pronged threat from Iran, Palestinian terror groups and international terrorism.
Yadlin told the legislators that Iran's nuclear weapons program could be stalled if the international community made an effort. Although Iran has boasted that it has all of the raw materials and know-how required to produce such weapons, Yadlin said it was likely that several parts of the program were still under development.
"In order to create a weapon, they must be able to produce 25 kilograms of enriched uranium, said Yadlin. "Currently, they are still at the stage of producing grams." Every state in the Middle East except Syria were concerned by the Iranian nuclear weapons program, he said.
Yadlin echoed Hanegbi's reference to the "three-pronged" threat facing Israel, stretching from Syria to the Hizbullah terror network to Iran.
"Our greatest threat comes from these three... we are closely tracking them," said Yadlin.