“Israel’s Estimates of Iranian Nuclear Capabilities” Dr. Adam Silverman

Uzi Mahnaimi in last Sunday’s Sunday Times breaks a major story regarding Israel’s estimations of Iran’s Nuclear weapons capabilities.  In his reporting Mahnaimi interviews retired Israeli Brigadier General Uzi Eilam.  BG Eilam, identified as “the former head of Israel’s nuclear weapons” and “former director general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission” indicated that it “would probably take Iran seven years to make nuclear weapons.”  While this brings BG Eilam’s assessment in line with the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions, it also puts his estimate at odds with that of both the current head of Israeli Military Intelligence, as well as the Israeli Prime Minister and his governing coalition.  Mahnaimi indicates that the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin has “recently told the defence committee in the Knesset that Iran will probably be able to build a singular nuclear device this year.”  Mahnaimi also reports that “Israelis forces have been training to attack Iranian nuclear installations and some analysts believe that could be launched this year if international sanctions fail to deter Tehran from pursuing its programme.”  Eilam is quoted as saying that “The intelligence community are spreading frightening voices about Iran” and that the “’defence establishment is sending out false alarms in order to grab a bigger budget’ while some politicians have used Iran to divert attention away from problems at home.” He also told Mahnami that “those who say that Iran will obtain a bomb within a year’s time, on what basis did they say so? Where is the evidence?”  Mahnaimi concludes his reporting with a final quote from BG Eilam about a preemptive Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities: “such an attack [against Iran] would be counter-productive.  One strike is not practical. In order to delay the Iranian programme for three to four years, one needs an armada of aircraft, which only a super-power can provide. Only America can do it.”


There are really four very interesting things that are exposed in Mahnaimi’s interview with retired Israeli Brigadier General Eilam.  The first is that the much maligned conclusions in the 2007 US NIE are more accurate than most people have believed.  The second is that there seems to be enough dissension between the staffs producing the Israeli estimates on Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions and capabilities that the former head of one branch decided to publicly take on the others through a media interview.  This is reminiscent, though not a perfect parallel, with ADM Fallon’s exit from US Central Command.  Fallon gave an interview that many perceived as being "push back" against what was, at the time, a very bellicose Bush Administration policy towards Iran and many have speculated he did so, then apologized and resigned, in order to retard that policy.  The third item of interest is the partial lifting of the veil of the Israeli interagency process.  Specifically a glimpse into worst case scenarios being presented and leaked in order to justify bigger budgets or greater bureaucratic control.  The final item that Mahnaimi exposes is that Israeli politicians are hyping the Iranian threat to divert attention from domestic issues.  In these second and third examples we see clear parallels to the warped process that has been on full display over the last several weeks in the US.  Ever since Mr. Abdulmuttalab tried to blow up a Northwest Flight on Christmas Day we have observed ramping up of hyperbole, threat assessment, and responses from various agencies, as well as been treated to an excellent display of both the interagency infighting among our intelligence and security agencies and the attempts to further politicize the intelligence process, security operations, and the threats facing the US.

Adam L. Silverman PhD

Adam L. Silverman, PhD was the Field Social Scientist and Team Leader for Human Terrain Team Iraq 6 (HTT IZ6) assigned to the 2BCT/1AD from OCT 2007 to OCT 2008.  Upon his redeployment to the US he served as the US Army Human Terrain System Strategic Advisor through June 2009.  The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the 2BCT/1AD, the US Army Human Terrain System, or the US Army.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to “Israel’s Estimates of Iranian Nuclear Capabilities” Dr. Adam Silverman

  1. J says:

    Ah yes, the ‘warped process’ occurring on both sides of the shores — Israeli [and U.S.]politicians are hyping the Iranian threat to divert attention from domestic issues.

  2. Tony says:

    One wonders why these news never get any exposure in US media!

  3. VietnamVet says:

    The battle of ideology verses reality continues with truth the first victim of war and propaganda.
    If the United States wasn’t in thrall to Israel, the focal point of the conflict between the two States would be Iran.
    Through its client, Hezbollah, Iran has frozen Israel’s borders. Israel has only two choices Arab integration or an Apartheid Ghetto. To hide this truth, an attack on Iran’s Nuclear Sites by Israel’s Right Wing is inevitable.
    On the other hand, besides the fact that Iran is not a threat, the USA has three reasons to not attack Iran: 1) Iran is essential to a safe withdrawal from Iraq, 2) Iran will assist in the isolation of Al Qaeda, and 3) an attack on Iran will throw the oil supply into chaos, crashing the world’s economy.
    The current Middle East policy is counter to the United States’ own National Interests. If a policy is against one’s own best interest, its persistence has to be due to ideology and the denial of reality; all symptoms of a coming crash, hitting bottom.

  4. N. M. Salamon says:

    another reazson that the MSM/Gov of USA concentrates on Iran and War on Terror is well depicted by the following graph from the National Geographic [USA]:
    Wee {if you are not pharma/hosp shareowner]!

  5. Jackie says:

    I guess what strikes me is how hysterical Israel’s leadership is while the retired BG is very calm about the whole thing. I want Israelis to grow up. Doesn’t look like that is going to happen anytime soon. Kind of makes me miss Ariel Sharon.

  6. curious says:

    People sort of laugh when I said Israel problem will isolate US from the world. Well, with current Saudi, Iran-China, dollar foreign dependency, oil price, EU economic problem, it’s not so funny anymore is it?
    The world expects United States to control all its proxy states. Israel problem is on top of everybody’s list because it destabilizes the entire middle east and oil price, hence global recovery. (nevermind humand right, freedom, democracy and all that jazz) Nobody gives cares when minor functionary screamed about holocaust at the UN or if aipac owns congress. Everybody simply wants US to “shut that bitch up”. Israel problem is causing high unemployment, fluctuating exchange rate, skyrocketing commodity price and destabilizing domestic politics everywhere. (for eg. Yemen food price was highly effected during 2006 commodity spike)
    Since that didn’t happen, global geopolitics is now rearranging itself aiming for a) oil/gas supply stability b) US fait accompli to be in major eurasia or middle east conflict c) destruction of US fiscal policy and dollar value.. d) various minor religious conflicts and clashes
    These are all reflective in SCO, Japan DPJ, asean+3/chiang mai initiative, failure of P4, current Saudi diplomatic effort … even Pakistan-china relationship.
    another example: because of Israel-iran conflict, we have the current China missile defense test (obviously this is related to taiwan weapon sale, which in turn relate to china refusing to sign on Iran sanction.)
    The repercussion is huge in eurasia. China is now seen as reliable long term partner, US is not. So one can observe a lot of long term contract with US is dwindling. (boeing is prime example. Jet fighters are another) Next will be Yuan status as regional currency supplanting dollar. (long term bond and future contract.) It is stupid to piss off ones biggest customers that will pay for loan and export goods.
    The cat fight between Turkey and Israel is another example. Someone should come down hard on Israel and tell them to stfu. Turkey is a NATO member and key ally in black sea, alternate energy transit to europe. European energy stability depends on Turkey. US-EU alliance and long term economic interst depends on this. If there is ever a Turkey-israel shoot out, that will be the end of NATO. It’s legal structure won’t be able to handle the trans atlantic stress.
    Israel can pretend to act like it is a super power, but at the end of the day, it is just a small imperial outpost at corner of map with increasingly dubious value. It is amusing entertainment to have during good time, but unaffordable in down time. Pretty soon somebody in charge will do cost analysis of maintaining Israel antics. And in the past 2 millenias, all western empires decided it is cheaper to eleminate israel. (but then again, history always repeat itself. so why be surprised? )

  7. Fred Strack says:

    From the second Times link “Admiral Fallon is also understood to have been pressing for a greater allocation of troops to Afghanistan, but has been frustrated at the reluctance of the Administration — and General Petraeus — to withdraw significant numbers from Iraq in the short term.”
    Not a good reminder for the “Petraeus 2012” supporters.

  8. Jose says:

    Dr. Silverman, thank you for your excellent analysis of a very complicated situation.
    IMHO, if we just wait a couple of years, the current regime will fall.
    That is why the current regime if trying to provoke a response.
    Conflict is the only way they can can crack-down on the protesters by all means, sanctions are the only way to justify a failing economy, and ultimately allow the national pain to produce a nuclear weapon (like Pakistan) which is probably years away.
    By now, we should know that neither the Israelis nor the Noecons are strategic thinkers just look to the invasions of Iraq, Lebanon (first invasion produced Hezbollah and second resulted in defeat), Gaza (was it even worth the effort?), and possibly what is going to happen in Pakistan.
    ” Israel has only two choices Arab integration or an Apartheid Ghetto” – VietnamVet
    There is a third option of making the Palestinian’s lives so miserable they “migrate” to Jordan.

  9. zhaohui says:

    It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.

Comments are closed.