JERUSALEM, Israel -- A top Israeli defense official warned this week that Iran could move "very quickly" to the breakout stage of nuclear weapons development and said Israel must be ready for hostile actions on a number of fronts.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the political-military director of Israel's Defense Ministry, told a security conference in Tel Aviv that while the nuclear talks between Iran and the Western powers stall, Israel's security forecast has worsened.
"There are clouds and a storm on the horizon," Gilad cautioned. "People don't believe it until it comes."
Shortly after Gilad's remarks were published in the Jerusalem Post and other places, Iran issued a warning of its own, through the state-run FARS news agency.
Army Brig.-Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan claimed Iran will never be caught off guard.
"Should the enemy want to act on the immature fantasy of aggression, it will face a crushing and lethal response by the Armed Forces," Pourdastan said.
Gilad explained that while Iran remains the most dangerous threat to Israel, the regime in Tehran has also put 100,000 rockets in Lebanon under the control of Hezbollah, spending billions of dollars to upgrade weapons capabilities.
Because the weapons can now reach all of Israel, Gilad said, "This is a military threat, not a terrorist one."
Other threats that must bear watching, according to the Defense Ministry, are terror cells organized worldwide by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and al Qaeda forces operating "without limits" across the Syrian border.
But the Iranian mullah's nuclear progress is by far the first priority.
"Can you imagine nuclear bombs in Iran's possession and how this will destabilize the region?" Gilad asked at the conference.
He added that the regime would benefit from a potential delay in the July 20 deadline for international talks.
It would be "excellent for the Iranians, as they want to stop the momentum of sanctions," he said.