Israel's Iran Timetable in State of Constant Flux

By Yossi Melman (Haaretz)

Published June 17, 2009.

For 15 years the Military Intelligence has been changing its assessment on when Iran’s nuclear program becomes operational. The deadline has been constantly pushed back, from the late 1990s, to the beginning then the middle of this decade, and finally 2009-2010. That changed this week.

On Tuesday, Mossad chief Meir Dagan suddenly came along and dismissed the assessment of the agency officially in charge of intelligence strategy. In saying that the deadline for an Iranian bomb is 2014, Dagan aligned himself with the CIA, that has repeatedly determined that Iran will reach the point of no return in 2015.

These frequent fluctuations damage the reputation of Israel’s intelligence agencies. They, in turn, can always say in their defense the assessments are changed in light of the new information that becomes available, but these inconsistencies nonetheless confuse the public.

If the date of the completion of Iran’s nuclear program is not that critical, there was no reason to spend so much time on it in the first place.

And if Iran will only be able to enrich uranium in 2014, it will be after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had left office, provided that the recent turmoil in the country does not scupper his re-election.

On top of the blow to his prestige delivered by the current protests, Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s physical condition is shaky. By 2014, there may well be a new president and a new spiritual leader. In short — everything is open.



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