Israel Races against Nuclear Time Clock

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced last week an attack on Iran's nuclear program would endanger the entire world. Medvedev's comment is just the latest barometer of what's at stake in today's volatile Middle East.

Collision Course

Russian tanks rumbled through Georgia in its most aggressive military action since the end of the Cold War.

Meanwhile Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues his rants and threats to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel.

Numerous reports indicate Israel is preparing for a military strike on Iran's nuclear plants.

These forces are all part of today's Middle East landscape, forces that well might be on a collision course.

"In Israel, people having in the back of their mind past traumas, especially the Holocaust are truly afraid that the minute Ahmadinejad lays hands on a nuclear weapon, he will drop it on Israelis heads," said Ronen Bergman, an Israeli investigative journalist and author of "The Secret War With Iran."

He says Iran is Israel's number one concern.

"Since 2002, since General Meir Dagan was appointed Mossad General Director, the Israeli foreign intelligence service is basically working on one issue and one issue alone and this issue is Iran," he said.

October Surprise

Many analysts believe Israel won't tolerate a nuclear Iran, but don't expect an immediate response.

The last thing Israeli leaders want is to be part of an "October Surprise" before the U.S. elections. But they also know that the window to stop Iran from going nuclear may soon be closed.

"Mossad estimates of what they term as the first nuclear device is at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010," Bergman said.

Whatever the estimate of when Iran can produce nuclear weapons, some suspect an Israeli military strike might take place after the U.S. presidential election and before the inauguration of the new President.

Bergman is one analyst who expects a strike at a later date - after the inauguration.

"At present time, if things continue as they are, I think we should expect a very tense, though quiet days in the Middle East," he said.

Questions that Linger

Regardless of the time frame, a number of unanswered questions hang over the Middle East: Will Israel attack Iran? Will the U.S. attack as well, or assist Israel militarily? And if an attack is launched, what will be the consequences? What would Russia do?

Analysts say one thing is certain: If Iran is attacked or if it develops a nuclear bomb, the world cannot afford to simply stand by and do nothing.

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Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

CBN News Mideast Bureau Chief

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