New Intel head: Sanctions don't harm Iran nuke program

Kohavi says fears of stepped-up sanctions and military strikes cause doubts that Iran will upgrade enrichment soon.

Bushehr Reactor 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Bushehr Reactor 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The new head of IDF Military Intelligence, Maj-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, downplayed the international community’s efforts to prevent the nuclearization of Iran via sanctions on Tuesday, in his maiden briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
He said the Iranian regime was maintaining stability despite the sanctions and that the sanctions had not prevented the strengthening of the country’s military.
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“The sanctions have had an impact on the Iranian economy, but they have had no impact on Iran’s nuclear program,” Kohavi said.
The sanctions resulted in the regime only being able to supply its people with 25 percent of its required gasoline, he said.
The Iranian regime recently drastically cut substantial gas subsidies to its people. The country made NIS 600 million from the recent rise in the price of oil, but it was not enough to make up for what they lost from the sanctions.
Kohavi declined to challenge former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s controversial estimate that Iran would not have the ability to build a nuclear bomb until 2015. He said the timetable for the country’s nuclearization lies in the hands of its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“The question is not when Iran will have a bomb but rather how much time until its leader decides to escalate its uranium enrichment,” Kohavi said. “Based on their infrastructure, technical know-how and the amount of uranium they have, after he makes that decision, they will have nuclear weapons within a year or two.”
Developing a nuclear missile would take even more time, Kohavi said. He said he did not believe Khamenei would decide to escalate enrichment this year, because of the instability in Iran and the fear that it would open the country to stiffer sanctions and a military strike.
In raw numbers, Kohavi said Iran had 350-450 centrifuges, 3.2 tons of low-enriched uranium at 3% enrichment and 40 kilograms at 20%.
Iran’s Qom facility continues to be built and in 2011 will be filled with centrifuges, he said.
Kohavi expressed hope that the failure of the international community’s talks with Iran last week would lead to escalating the sanctions. India’s joining the sanctions last month could have a major impact, he said.
“There is a growing understanding in the world that Iran is seeking a military nuclear capability,” he said. “However, the world believes there is more time to deal with the threat.”
Knesset Economics Committee chairman Carmel Shama- Hacohen announced on Tuesday that he would advance legislation to prevent the government from working with energy companies that do business with Iran.
European Friends of Israel chief executive Michel Gourary said it was improper that Israel was behind Europe in steps to stop cooperating with Iran.