Top officer: Syria preparing for escalation that could start war with Israel.
By YAAKOV KATZPublished: MAY 19, 2007 22:06Advertisement
Despite a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which revealed that Iran was enriching uranium on an unprecedented scale, a high-ranking IDF officer said over the weekend that Israel still maintained its assessment that Teheran would have a nuclear bomb only by the end of the decade.
Last week, The New York Times revealed that on a short-notice inspection of Iran's main nuclear facility at Natanz, IAEA inspectors found evidence to suggest that Iran may have overcome technological challenges and has started enriching uranium on a significantly wider scale.
According to the Times report, Iranian engineers were already using an estimated 1,300 centrifuges and were producing fuel suitable for nuclear reactors.
But according to the senior IDF officer, the defense establishment's assessment remained the same - that Iran would only obtain nuclear weapons by the end of the decade.
Turning to the Syrian front, the officer said that the IDF had noticed a military buildup within Syria as well as preparations by Damascus for the possibility of war with Israel. Syria recently decided to move up its annual military exercise and has set June 1 as the cutoff date for the completion of military preparations for war.
The officer stressed, however, that Syrian President Bashar Assad's "strategic decision" was to try and make peace with Israel, but he was at the same time preparing for a regional escalation over the summer - that could be connected to Iran or Hizbullah - that would also lead to war with Israel.
"There are preparations in Syria but we do not identify them as meaning that they intend to initiate a war with us," the top officer said. "We are nevertheless taking actions to de-escalate the situation."
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