The chief of the Mossad, Israel's spy agency, Meir Dagan, says Iran will be in a position to build a nuclear bomb by 2009, at the earliest, according to a report this week in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz of Mr. Dagan's testimony to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of Israel's parliament. But the Iranian bomb could come sooner. Another Israeli paper, Ma'ariv, reports that the Palestinian Arab prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas terrorist group, was told by Iran,"In four months we're going to issue a statement that will dramatically change the strategic balance in the Middle East." Ma'ariv quotes Israeli intelligence as saying the Iranians have promised to make an important announcement at the next Persian new year, which begins the third week in March 2007.
No doubt to dampen the prospect that Israel or America might act to preempt an Iranian nuclear bomb, the outgoing secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, yesterday warned that a military action against Iran would be "unwise and disastrous." Those adjectives might be more accurately applied to the alternative, a diplomatic path of sanctions pursued at the United Nations, where, more than three months after an August 31 "deadline" for Iran, no sanctions have been approved or imposed.
It is in this context that we see the complaint by a former CIA aide, Flynt Leverett, that the White House is trying to suppress his claim that Iran wanted to negotiate with America in 2003. It looks as if all Iran wants to do is stall for time while it builds a nuclear bomb. The concern in serious quarters is that Iran will test this weapon for the first time by launching it toward Tel Aviv, in which case not even the Iranians will be able to deny it was a holocaust. The good news, if it can be called that, is that there is still time to avert a catastrophe, whether it is four months or the time between now and 2009. The important thing to remember is that it is not much time.