Eye To Eye
U.S., Israel on the same page on Iran timeline.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
number of recent news reports
on Iran policy have emphasized
the differences between U.S. and
Israeli intelligence estimates of when Iran
will go nuclear.
More striking, however, is that both
nations agree that it could happen in less
than a year. They differ only in over how
long before Iran will have a weapon: Israel
estimates Iran will inevitably go nuclear
within two years, while the Americans say it
could take until the middle of next decade.
"I've been with my Israeli counterpart a
number of times, and by and large we see
it the same way," Adm. Mike Mullen, the
chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff,
told Charlie Rose of PBS last week. "We're
in agreement and have been for, oh, the
better part of the last six months or so.
"There was a time that we weren't,
but we've actually worked pretty hard to
understand where we both are. And so I
think generally we're in agreement."
In the same interview, Mullen said the
window for an Iranian nuclear capability
was "sort of 2010 to 2015." That overlaps
with Israeli predictions of a capability by
next year, and Mullen added for effect:
"2010 isn't very far away"
Mullen was responding to reports in the
New York Times and the Washington Post
that the two allies were at odds on how to
deal with Iran. The analyses were based
on separate but parallel events: U.S. Senate
testimony by Adm. Dennis Blair, the direc-
tor of national intelligence, and a pre-
sentation by Amos Yadlin, the director of
military intelligence, to the Israeli Cabinet.
"We assess now that Iran does not
have highly enriched uranium;' Blair said
March 10. Pressed by Sen. Carl Levin,
D-Mich., the chairman of the Armed
Services Committee, Blair elaborated. "The
nuclear weapons program is one of the
three components required for a deliver-
able system, including the delivery system
and the uranium," he said.
"But as for the nuclear weapons pro-
gram, the current position is the same
— that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons
design and weaponization activities in
2003 and did not — has not started them
March 26 2009
Adm. Mike Mullen, left, told PBS host Charlie Rose that Israel and the United States agree on more than they disagree
on Iran's nuclear weapons program.
again, at least as of mid-2007:'
Three days later, according to Ynet, the
Israeli news Web site attached to Yediot
Achronot, Yadlin told Israel's Cabinet
that "Iran has crossed the technological
threshold, making its potential military
nuclear ability a matter of making it their
strategy to create a nuclear bomb.
"Iran continues to collect hundreds
of kilograms of low-grade uranium and
hopes to take advantage of the dialogue
with the West and the Washington admin-
istration in order to move forward towards
the creation of a nuclear bomb."
The analyses, despite the media flurry,
were not incompatible. Yadlin specified
low-grade uranium and Blair acknowl-
edged that the Iranians were close to hav-
ing enough for a bomb. Blair specifically
was discounting reports that Iran was able
to manufacture highly enriched uranium
and offering a holistic view, taking into
account Iran's capacity to deliver weapons.
Yadlin was saying simply that the Islamic
regime had crossed the threshold of manu-
facturing enough uranium for a bomb and
was not speculating about delivery.
Within days of Mullen's pronouncement
of close Israel-U.S. cooperation, his Israeli
counterpart, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was
putting it to the test in Washington meet-
ings with Gen. James Jones, President
Obama's national security adviser, top
Pentagon brass and Dennis Ross, who
shapes Iran policy at the State Department.
Subtle differences in the Hebrew and
English official accounts of Ashkenazi's
meetings were telling. "Throughout
the day, the Chief of Staff met with the
National Security Adviser, Gen. James
Jones, with whom he discussed profes-
sional matters such as Iran's nuclear plans,
the security situation along Israel's north-
ern border, weapons smuggling, as well as
the situation in the Palestinian Authority
and the Gaza Strip after operation 'Cast
Lead:" said the statement put out by Israel
for the foreign media.
The Hebrew statement, put out by Israel
for domestic consumption, said Iran was
the "foremost" issue that Ashkenazi dis-
cussed. The English statement called Ross
a "special adviser for the Persian Gulf and
Southwest Asia;' while the Hebrew version
called Ross "an adviser on Iran."
Ashkenazi reportedly outlined for Ross
contingencies under which Israel could
attack Iran, reiterating it was not on the
table for now.
Coincidentally, a paper from the Center
for Strategic and International Studies
said that such an attack was doable, if
difficult, both through an air attack and
by long-range missiles. The report, by
Abduallh Toukan, said that such an attack
would "give rise to regional instability and
conflict as well as terrorism!'
Such a consequence clearly worried
Mullen, too, even though it is not on the
immediate horizon. "What I worry about in
terms of an attack on Iran is in addition to
the immediate effect, the effect of the attack
— it's the unintended consequences.
"It's the further destabilization in the
region;' Mullen said. "It's how they would
respond. We have lots of Americans who
live in that region who are under the
threat envelope right now." ❑