Baidatz: Iran may have material for nukes this yr

MI Research Division chief says Islamic republic's nuclear program "progressing at troubling pace."

Ahmadinejad and nuke buddies 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ahmadinejad and nuke buddies 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
By the end of the summer, Teheran could have enough low-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's research division, warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. Despite the dire warning, Iran would not be able to immediately deploy a nuclear weapon, as the low-enrichment uranium would have to be processed into highly-enriched weapons-grade material before it could be used for a bomb. Baidatz's comments those of his boss, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, who told the committee last month that "Iran is intentionally advancing its nuclear development in such a way so as not to cross any nuclear red lines, by enriching low-grade uranium that is not sufficient for weapons development, but that can quickly be adapted to weapons-grade uranium in such a short period of time that the process can't be sabotaged." Baidatz also warned that there was "no connection between Teheran's diplomatic engagement and the trajectory of the military nuclear effort to attain the bomb" - and that the nuclear trajectory was outpacing the diplomatic one. Iran was closely watching the world's response to North Korea's nuclear tests, and moderate Arab countries were closely monitoring Iran's nuclear aspirations, he said. He downplayed the potential impact of June 12's Iranian elections, arguing that both of the leading candidates - incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi - are equally problematic regarding Israel. The Iranian elections were not the only ones to concern Baidatz; the intelligence specialist also discussed this Sunday's poll in Lebanon, and its implications for Israel. Hizbullah had acquired - with Syrian assistance - tens of thousands of rockets that it was storing both north and south of the Litani River. The upcoming elections, however, were a restraining factor, and the polls combined with Teheran's desire to keep Hizbullah intact in order to use it as leverage should the IDF attack Iranian nuclear sites were temporarily guaranteeing Israel a respite along the northern border, Baidatz said. Nevertheless, Hizbullah was still actively striving to carry out a terrorist attack to revenge the killing of its "chief of staff" Imad Mughniyah, he said. Although Baidatz said the elections in Lebanon were too close to call, he warned that there was a continuing trend of Hizbullah growing stronger and more deeply-rooted in the country, and that the "elections are likely to reflect" that sentiment. Baidatz was uncharacteristically clear in his statements regarding Syria's support of Hizbullah, describing increasingly overt and direct military assistance to the terrorist group, with Damascus passing on to Hizbullah more advanced weaponry and training than ever before. On the other hand, Syria was simultaneously pursuing increased westernization, and was discussing peace - which the general added was in Syria's best interest.