According to a Yedioth Ahronoth report this morning, senior American officials believe Iran is approaching a “zone of immunity,”after which its nuclear programme will become immune to an Israeli strike and would be advanced enough to manufacture a nuclear weapon.
A recently submitted US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) obtained by Haaretz paints a worrying picture that Iran is making notable progress towards a nuclear weapon. This development comes after Yedioth Ahronoth last week reported that significant progress in Iran’s “weapons group” – the people and installations engaged in the production and assembly of the nuclear warhead. According to the report, Iran has recently installed approximately 5,000 “twin centrifuges” in the fortified underground enrichment site in Fordow, near the city of Qom, and has activated them.
From Israel’s perspective, the fact that Iran’s enrichment facilities have been relocated to the heavily fortified Fordow facility means that they have, at least partially, become immune to an Israeli strike. However, this is not necessarily the case for an American strike, which has led to differences of opinion between Jerusalem and Washington over when Iran’s nuclear programme becomes entirely immune.
Israeli sources cited in Yedioth Ahronoth add, however, that despite the differences of opinion between the countries on a strike against Iran, when it comes to the intelligence picture there is almost complete accord on all the details, and in some cases US intelligence takes an even more severe view. “There is nothing that we know and you don’t,” a high-ranking US official clarified to Yedioth Ahronoth. “The opposite is also true—there is nothing that your intelligence has found that you haven’t told us,” the official added.
Israeli sources say that the two countries share the same information that indicates that the activity of the “weapons group” has been renewed, which mainly operates from Iran’s secret military base in Parchin. The UN’s nuclear watchdog – the IAEA – has many times in the past demanded that Iran permit to visits at the site, but requests have repeatedly been met with refusal.