is but six months away from achieving technological independence in its quest to develop a nuclear bomb
Chief Meir Dagan told the Knesset
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during his yearly briefing to the body Tuesday.
Though he refused to lay out a specific time line for when Iran could complete work on a nuclear weapon, Dagan appeared to accelerate the most recent prediction made by Israeli intelligence. On December 13, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz
said Iran could begin enriching uranium by March 2006 but would not be able to develop a bomb until 2008.
The Islamic State has made a "strategic decision to reach nuclear independence," Dagan said, and once it reached that goal it would then be only a matter of "a few months" before it was able to finish building a nuclear bomb.
Dagan further warned that Iran would not be content with just one nuclear weapon. "If they continue undisturbed, and they succeed in developing fissile material, they won't be content in the amount needed for just one bomb, they will try to make more," the Mossad chief warned. "You don't need a lot of fissile material, you just need it to be enriched."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
has called for Israel to "be wiped off the map."
Iran has already produced 40 tones of UF6, a compound used in the uranium enrichment process that produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. That amount of UF6 could produce 40 kilograms of fissile material, Dagan said. Iran is also continuing to "build and enhance" centrifuges, which are part of its nuclear program.
Despite the mounting threat Iran's nuclear weapons program posses, Dagan implied there is still time for a peaceful solution to the dispute if the international community is willing to take action soon.
imposed by the United Nations Security Council "would be very effective," Dagan said. Since Iran imported 40 percent of its refined fuel, and also relied heavily on imported spare parts for its vehicles, it was highly susceptible to coordinated and targeted sanctions from the international community, he said.
"The chances of this going to the Security Council are higher than they were in the past," he said.
The Mossad chief was careful in his presentation to the Knesset committee not to use the words "point of no return" in describing when, in his estimate, Iran would be able to complete its nuclear ambitions without any outside help. Rather, he used the phrase "technical independence". The difference could imply that even once Iran was able to make a nuclear weapon, it may still be persuaded not to by outside forces or agreements.
Dagan's briefing to the Knesset committee comes on the heels of a Saturday report by German newspaper Der Spiegel
that the Mossad had marked six Iranian nuclear facilities the IAF would hit in a pre-emptive strike. Additionally, a Tuesday Ma'ariv
report said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
was coordinating intelligence on Iran with the United States
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times
reported Saturday that Israel had modified American-made Harpoon cruise missiles in order to launch them from submarines as a means to further dissuade Iran from becoming a nuclear power itself.
Efforts by the United Kingdom
, France, and Germany
to convince Iran to give up its nuclear program have so far proven fruitless while a
recent offer from Russia
to Iran to enrich uranium in Russia for a peaceful Iranian nuclear power program has gone unanswered.
Nevertheless, the United States and other countries have said they will give Iran until March to comply with international demands for it to halt its nuclear program before referring the Islamic State to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
In his briefing to the committee, Dagan also touched on the "global jihad" being waged by Muslim militants, saying that Israelis and Jews remain prime targets around the world.
The goal, he said, of the global jihad is to establish a "pan-Islamic entity" similar to the Caliphate which once spanned huge parts of Asia, Africa, and southern Europe. "They have independent infrastructures all over the world, there is no one central headquarters," Dagan said, describing the command structure of the global jihad.
Despite ideology which sometimes overlapped, Hamas and Islamic Jihad
have, for the most part, remained outside the global jihad network due to their more focused goal of establishing a Palestinian state, Dagan said.
With assistance from Egypt and Jordan in the global war on terror, and the threat to Israel from Syria and Lebanon
Israel's main threat following Iran was now veterans of the Iraq War, Dagan said.
Foreign fighters who have undergone training and cut their teeth in Iraq were now returning home and "setting up their own infrastructures there," he said. "The absurd thing is that the more success the United States has in Iraq, the more dangerous it will be for Israel."
Despite reports to the contrary, Dagan also said there are "no signs at all"
that there is a discernable movement to overthrow Bashar Assad
in Syria. "There is unity around Assad, and he controls the old guard.
He has the last word on all matters," the Mossad chief said.