Israeli Minister: Iran Most Critical Issue

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Despite the current tensions along the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz warned Tuesday that a nuclear-armed Iran remains the Jewish state's biggest challenge.

"Events and the situation in Syria, Sinai and the Gaza Strip must not displace -- even for a moment -- the most critical issue, which is a nuclear Iran," Steinitz told participants at the First International C51 Conference.

Israel has been sounding the alarm regarding the dangers of Iran's nuclear program for years.  Israel, the U.S. and now most of the West believe Iran is using a civilian nuclear program to covertly develop nuclear bombs.  Iran also regularly threatens to wipe Israel off the map.

According to Steinitz, if the Islamic Republic achieves nuclear weapons capability, it won't just be Israel's problem.

"The Iranian nuclear project changes the situation; it will change the situation for the State of Israel, the Middle East and even that of the entire world. The Iranians' ambition is to change the global balance of forces from end to end," he said.

Nuclear Superpower

Steinitz said Iran's nuclear industry is much larger than North Korea's or Pakistan's.

"This is a ramified nuclear industry that has been built not to produce a few bombs but to produce fissionable material for dozens and hundreds of nuclear bombs. The issue at hand is not a nuclear state, but the possibility of creating a nuclear superpower."

Iran's uranium enrichment program will allow it to produce up to 30 nuclear bombs every year, he believes.

"Today, the Natanz facility has about 12,000 centrifuges and plans to reach 54,000. It will be able to enrich enough uranium to produce 20-30 atomic bombs per annum. The Qom site already has approximately 3,000 centrifuges and is using several hundred for enrichment purposes," he explained. "Within a decade, the Iranians will be able to have over 100 nuclear bombs."

A nuclear-armed Iran will destabilize the entire world.

"The danger is not that of ayatollahs with a few bombs in the basement but a genuine danger to world peace. Even if it takes time to produce hydrogen bombs, it will cover for this by producing dozens of bombs per annum," Steinitz warned.

"Even now Iran has missiles aimed at Israel, missiles that could also reach a considerable part of Europe and it is making a concentrated effort to develop a satellite launch vehicle, which is, in effect, cover for inter-continental ballistic missiles," he concluded.

Steinitz believes Iran will achieve such a capability within three to four years.

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