Analysis: Sanctions on Iran - too little, too late for Israel's security establishment

Israel believes that by the end of the decade, Iran will have a nuclear bomb capable of being fitted onto one of its Shihab ballistic missiles.

UNSC 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
UNSC 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The decision by the UN Security Council on Saturday to impose sanctions on Iran was met with caution within the defense establishment. There was certainly no excitement in the corridors. Israel has been pushing for sanctions for years and while they have finally been imposed, they are believed to be too little and too late. According to forecasts within the defense community, the sanctions, which order countries to ban the supply of specific materials and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, and freeze assets of key companies and individuals involved in those programs, will not stop the Islamic republic from continuing with its pursuit for nuclear power. On Friday, The Jerusalem Post reported that according to the new edition of the Middle East Military Balance, recently published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, sanctions will fail and the only way to stop Teheran is through military action. There seems to be a growing consensus to this effect within the defense establishment, particularly in Military Intelligence, whose annual intelligence assessment - presented to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week - claims not only that sanctions will not work but that the United States will not take military action against Iran. Bogged down in Iraq and lacking political clout at home, President George W. Bush, according to Military Intelligence, would have difficulty getting an okay from Congress for another military adventure in the Middle East. Israel believes that by the end of the decade, Iran will have a nuclear bomb capable of being fitted onto one of its Shihab ballistic missiles. Mossad chief Meir Dagan told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that, since June, Iran has intensified efforts to enrich uranium and has set a goal of getting 3,000 centrifuges spinning by the end of 2007. Once the centrifuges operate undisturbed and without glitches for three months, Teheran will have crossed the technological threshold - the point of no return - and will have the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb on its own. The decision to impose sanctions is seen as a step forward - sanctions were only imposed on North Korea following a nuclear test - and Israel also saw a positive step in Russia's decision to align itself with the United States and vote in favor of the sanctions. Israeli officials have become frequent flyers on the Tel Aviv-Moscow route over the past few months with recent visits to the Kremlin by the head of the National Security Council, Ilan Mizrachi, the head of the Defense Ministry's Political-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad, and Foreign Ministry director-general Aharon Abramovich. These meetings may have helped get Russia on board with the sanctions. But does the Security Council's action constitute a sufficient deterrent? Hardly, runs the security establishment's consensus.