Israel Urged to Prepare for Iranian Nuclear Attack

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel must prepare itself for the worst-case scenario -- a nuclear attack by Iran -- even though it is not clear what Iran's intentions are, the former head of Israel's Intelligence agency said on Thursday.

The U.S., Israel, and most of the Western world believe that Iran is using the development of a nuclear program to conceal its pursuit of atomic weapons. Iran denies the charges.

According to a recent deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran pledged to answer outstanding questions about its nuclear program. But it never agreed to suspend uranium enrichment -- a key Security Council requirement.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said on Thursday that the next two months would be "critical for Iran to demonstrate its good faith in implementing what it is committed to do." But critics say Iran is just buying time to develop nuclear weapons.

The U.S. has led the diplomatic campaign against Iran. But so far, two U.N. resolutions and the imposition of sanctions have not forced the suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment program, which is key stop in making a bomb.

Former Israeli Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit said the big question facing Israeli intelligence and other Western intelligence agencies is whether Iran would use nuclear weapons if it acquires them. Nevertheless, he said, Israel must be prepared, although he did not offer specifics on what kind of preparations Israel should take.

"Will a nuclear Iran be pragmatic or Messianic? Once they have it, are they going to use it or not? This is the classic dilemma," Shavit told a meeting of diplomats and journalists at the Jerusalem-based Institute for Contemporary Affairs on Thursday.

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is known to be preparing for what he believes will be the coming of the Islamic "messiah" (the Mahdi or the Hidden Imam), who is supposed to appear at a time of great tribulation. Some analysts say Ahmadinejad believes it is his duty to hasten the Mahdi's coming.

Ahmadinejad also has publicly called for the destruction of Israel, openly supports Hizballah and Palestinian terrorists groups fighting against Israel, and has called the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered, a myth.

That being the case, any intelligence officer would recommend that his state or country be prepared for the "worst case scenario," said Shavit.

"In this case it means that Israel and maybe others need to prepare [for] the eventuality that a nuclear Iran will use this capability," said Shavit.

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