A German parliamentarian source - well acquainted with the local intelligence community - told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Monday that he agrees to two of the Israeli intelligence's basic assumptions: The first is that Iran is determined to produce an atom bomb
At the Israeli Foreign Ministry and at the Mossad, where efforts are being coordinated to hinder Iranian nuclear armament, there is growing frustration at Europe's handling of the issue. On the one hand, intelligence sources in Western Europe, such as Germany's Federal Intelligence Service the BND or the French DGSE, agree that Iran is doing everything in its power to produce the first Shiite bomb.
On the other hand, there is growing discrepancy between the information appearing in the intelligence reviews and how it is used by the leaders of these countries in their public dealings with Iran.
In closed talks with Israeli representatives the Europeans say: "It is true that Iran wants a bomb, and it is true that Iran is persistently misleading the international community, however…"
'A step in the wrong direction'
This "however" is excruciating for the Israelis. All the German foreign minister had to say Monday in response to Ahmadinejad's declaration was that Iran is taking "a step in the wrong direction." That's it.
Ahmadinejad's announcement didn't divulge anything new to Western intelligence sources. Technically, as far as it is known, two cascades of centrifuges are currently operational in Natanz, with 164 units in each. This is a very small model and is also difficult for the Iranians to operate. They have severe difficulties connecting the centrifuges and spinning the content.
It is highly doubtful that they will succeed in operating what Ahmadinejad claims they have succeeded in doing - completing an underground "pilot" plant with 3,000 centrifuges. Even when they do function properly, it would still be very difficult for them to produce a nuclear bomb and it would take quite some time.
Nonetheless, Iran is undoubtedly making progress in its efforts to enrich uranium, the essence of producing a nuclear bomb.
Full steam ahead
Iran's declarations are contradictory: On the one hand it is being careful not to cross any red lines lest it become a pariah state such as North Korea. Yet on the other hand, it is not prepared to relinquish its goal of achieving nuclear power. Since the discovery of the site in Natanz in 2003, Iran's tactics of procrastination succeeded in delaying UN sanctions.
Once the sanctions were imposed, Iran took the next step aimed at gaining more and more time in order to acquire sufficient know-how in order to continue development on a covert path, even while open facilities are under supervision.
Why then is Iran willingly admitting that it is continuing full steam ahead? The Iranians are in fact showing off scientific achievements they have not yet reached, assuming that any future agreement would commence from the point they have already reached. Tehran is trying to ensure that future negotiations over its nuclear capability begin at a point where it is most technologically advanced.