Israel warned Iran approaching 'point of no return' with nukes

Thursday, December 18, 2003

HERZLIYA, Israel The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been urged to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program.

A senior Israeli parliamentarian regarded as a leading expert on Iran's strategic programs has warned the Sharon government that it cannot rely on the United States to stop Teheran's nuclear weapons project. The parliamentarian said Iran will achieve independent nuclear weapons capability over the next year.

"If we don't act by ourselves, then others won't do anything," Knesset member Ephraim Sneh told a strategic conference in Herzliya on Tuesday. "They will only do something if they know that we will act, providing no other alternative. This moment is approaching," Middle East Newsline reported.

Sneh, a minister in previous Israeli governments, warned of Iran's nuclear capability as early as 1993 and helped draft policy that called for U.S. pressure to stop Russian technology to Teheran. He is a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee, which receives frequent intelligence briefings on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

"In 2004, or at the latest 2005, Iran will arrive at the point of no-return for nuclear weapons," Sneh, echoing an assessment by Israel's intelligence community, said. "This means that it will no longer require foreign assistance to produce a nuclear weapon."

Sneh warned that an Iranian nuclear bomb will destroy the fabric of Israeli society. He said Israel's government will be intimidated by an Iranian atomic bomb and that the nation's elite will flee to avoid an Iranian nuclear attack.

"People will leave here and not come back if they think Iran could use such weapons," Sneh said. "How would a government in Jerusalem confront nuclear weapons against an irrational regime. We will be limited in every way."

Israeli officials said Sneh's remarks reflects those of the nation's intelligence community. They said Israel has urged the United States to stop Iran's nuclear program during 2004 before Teheran's reaches indigenous nuclear capability.

But U.S. analysts who appeared with Sneh during a discussion of Iran frowned on a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. They said the Bush administration had little stomach for another military confrontation amid the campaign to stabilize Iraq.

Patrick Clawson, head of research at the Washington Institute, said the United States can delay Iran's nuclear weapons program by between two and 10 years with a military intervention. Clawson said a U.S. assassination campaign against leading Iranian scientists could be more effective than an air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

"It could be what Israel did in Egypt in the 1960s, making certain that key people in meet an untimely accident."

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