JERUSALEM – Iran will reach the point of no return and possess the capacity to build nuclear weapons within three months, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz warned today.
The ominous prediction comes just days after the London Sunday Times quoted Israeli officials who said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has instructed the IDF to prepare a military strike against Iran by the end of March.
Addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today, Halutz cautioned that after a three-month period, Iran may have a nuclear infrastructure in place. Still, he explained, Tehran would have to obtain enough nuclear materials to build weapons.
“This fact does not represent a threat to Israel just yet, because Iran will have to overcome a few obstacles before it can put the weapons to use,” Halutz said.
The IDF estimate was similar to the timetable offered earlier this month by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
“I know they are trying to acquire the full fuel cycle. I know that acquiring the full fuel cycle means that a country is months away from nuclear weapons, and that applies to Iran and everybody else,” ElBaradei said in an interview with the British newspaper The Independent.
Also today, the website of state-run television published remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again casting doubt on whether the Holocaust actually occurred while calling on Muslim nations to take an active role in the Palestinian issue.
Ahmadinejad reportedly was speaking at an Iranian Islamic conference alongside Khaled Meshal, the overall leader of Hamas.
“If the killing of Jews in Europe is true and the Zionists are being supported because of this excuse, why should the Palestinian nation pay the price?” the website quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
“The Islamic world should give up its policy of passivity and deal with the Palestinian issue more actively,” he said.
Ahmadinejad last week provoked fiery responses from the United States, much of Europe, Russia and some of the Arab world when he told reporters at a Saudi Arabian conference intended to show the moderate side of Islam that Israel should be relocated to Europe if the West wanted to make up for the Holocaust.
And in November, Ahmadinejad threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.”
Regarding Sharon’s instructions the IDF prepare to strike Iran, the Times quoted unnamed defense officials who said Israel would use air and ground forces against several nuclear targets in a bid to push back Iran’s nuclear program by several years.
The British newspaper said Sharon’s orders were relayed to the army after intelligence officials warned Iran already has activated uranium enrichment facilities hidden at civilian locations.
According to the report, which high-ranking security officials denied to WND, the level of preparedness of the Israeli Air Force has been moved up to the highest level in fear of Iranian retaliation or a pre-emptive strike.