Gen. Martin Dempsey’s warning today that an Israeli attack on Iran would not stop the country’s nuclear program came after the IAEA had announced that Iran has already installed more than 2,100 centrifuges inside a virtually impenetrable underground facility, ramping up production of nuclear fuel. The New York Times, quoting Israeli officials and experts, said today that the IAEA report puts Israel “in a corner,” documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack. The report may force Israel “to strike Iran or concede it is not prepared to act on its own.”
“It leaves us at this dead end,” a senior Israeli government official told the Times. “The more time elapses with no change on the ground in terms of Iranian policies, the more it becomes a zero-sum game.” (The New York Times, 31 August)
The U.S., as apparent in Gen. Dempsey’s remarks, is warning Israel, however, that they can’t destroy Iran’s nuclear program on their own, without direct U.S. involvement. The U.S. fears that an unsuccessful Israeli strike would just drive the program more underground. The Times report said for example that the best Israel might be able to accomplish is to close the tunnel entrances around Fordo underground plant, rather than destroy what is inside.
But the debate over an Iran strike and lobbying in the tight circle of decision-makers in Israel have intensified, with many saying that the status quo is not sustainable. The Times quotes Israeli experts as saying that unless the United States issues a clear ultimatum to Iran about its intentions to act militarily, the chances of an Israeli attack this year will climb.