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Colin Kahl
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'Israeli strike would only exacerbate conflict'

Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities won't destroy nuclear program, former pentagon adviser on Mideast policy warns, voicing confidence upcoming nuke talks could yield initial resolution

Yitzhak Benhorin
Published: 04.14.12, 09:56 / Israel News

WASHINGTON - An Israeli strike on Iran won't destroy the Islamic Republic's nuclear program and will only exacerbate the conflict, a former Mideast adviser to the US secretary of defense warned on Friday.

 

Dr. Colin Kahl, now a Georgetown professor, posited that the upcoming talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany could yield an initial agreement over the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear development, but the US isn't likely to remove all sanctions it has placed on the country.

 

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According to Kahl, who served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East at the Pentagon from 2009 to 2011, the foremost demands that the US will lay down during the negotiations will be for Tehran to halt 20% uranium enrichment, the removal of enriched uranium from Iran and the termination activity at the Fordow plant.


אחמדינג'אד בנתנז. יסכים להגביל את ההעשרה? (צילום: EPA )

Iran to halt nuclear enrichment? (Photo: EPA)

 

The 20%-enriched uranium poses a serious threat to the US and Israel, he noted, due to the fact it could facilitate the development of a nuclear bomb.

 

Kahl told Ynet he anticipates Tehran to agree in the coming months to halt enrichment at the Fordow plant in an effort to avoid further sanctions or a military strike. The measure "won't eliminate the threat to Israel or the US" but could be a major step towards a resolution, he said.

 

'Strike must be led by US'

The professor expressed opposition to an Israeli military operation in Iran – which he believes is the most inefficient, unpopular and destructive option. Any such attack must be led by the US and backed by an international coalition, and must effectively work towards keeping Iran isolated after the fact.

 

If Israel acts alone, it might minimally impede Iran's nuclear ambitions but would be devastating for region; any such move would prompt Iran to develop its program in a manner far more dangerous for Israel, he said.

 

He agreed with former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan's recent estimation that Iran is years away from developing an atom bomb.


"תקיפה ישראלית תהפוך את האזור לפחות בטוח" (צילום: AP)

'Israeli strike will compromise region' (Photo: AP)

 

Kahl stressed he has visited Israel 13 times during his tenure at the Pentagon, and has done much to promote its security.

 

While Iran has already passed technological threshold, Kahl asserted, it has yet to make the decision to build a nuclear weapon. If Tehran does make that fateful call, it would require four to six months to enrich enough uranium for one bomb, meaning that it could build the weapon in a year. Even so, the bomb wouldn't be sophisticated enough to be dropped from a plane. He cited Israeli and US intelligence officials, who claimed that Iran would need three to five years to produce a nuclear warhead.

 

If the order is made, he said, the International Atomic Energy Agency would be aware of it within a few days.

 

Red lines

Khal pointed out a discrepancy between the US and Israel's red lines that Iran must not be allowed to cross. While US officials draw the limit at nuclear weapons, he said, Israeli officials set that boundary at nuclear power and the ability to build a bomb.

 

Iran has the knowledge necessary to build nuclear weapons, he said. That threshold has been crossed a year or two ago. But it's not the first time that Israel's red lines have been crossed, he noted.

 

According to the expert, the intelligence community is certain that Iran has halted its plan to build an atom bomb in 2003, a notion confirmed by the 2011 IAEA report. He added that US President Barack Obama is determined to keep it that way – even if it means launching an unpopular military operation.

 

 

 

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