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Cablegate: Codel Nelson and Israel Defense Intelligence

VZCZCXRO9767
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHTV #4892/01 3541036
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 201036Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8303
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 5433
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 004892

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR H AND NEA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/11/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR KPAL IR SY LE IS
SUBJECT: CODEL NELSON AND ISRAEL DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE
DISCUSS IRAN, SYRIA, LEBANON

REF: A. TEL AVIV 4828
B. TEL AVIV 4890

Classified By: PolCouns Marc Sievers for reasons 1.4 (B/D)

1. (S) SUMMARY: On December 12, Colonel Amit Aviram of
Israeli Defense Intelligence (IDI) briefed Senator Bill
Nelson (FL) on regional security threats facing Israel.
Aviram described the Middle East as caught in a struggle
between moderates and Iranian-backed extremists, and said the
growing Iranian threat was the Israeli security
establishment,s chief concern. IDI believed that Iran would
master the uranium enrichment process in 2007, and could have
a nuclear weapon by 2010. Aviram said that despite setbacks,
Hizbullah was still a formidable force in Lebanon, and was
seeking, with Iranian and Syrian assistance, to rebuild its
military capabilities. Aviram acknowledged that the
interests of Israel and moderate Arab states were beginning
to converge, but said that the Arabs needed progress on the
Palestinian track before they could publicly cooperate with
Israel. END SUMMARY.

-------------------
Iran: Nukes by 2010
-------------------

2. (S) Colonel Aviram told Senator Nelson that the region was
caught in a destabilizing struggle between Iranian-backed
extremists -- such as Hizballah and Hamas -- and moderate
forces -- such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the
Palestinians, Fatah movement. He said Israel,s chief
security concern was no longer Palestinian terrorism, but the
growing Iranian threat. Aviram said that the Israeli
intelligence community believed that diplomacy would fail and
that during 2007, Iran would cross a &dangerous new
threshold8 by &mastering8 the uranium enrichment process.
Iran,s goal, he said, was to stall the diplomatic process
indefinitely, in order to wear down the international
community until the world is finally forced to accept Iran,s
nuclear activities. Given the current rate of progress, he
said, Iran would develop a nuclear weapon by 2010. Senator
Nelson challengedquestioned this assessment, noting that the
U.S. intelligence community believed it would take a little
longer for Iran to achieve nuclear weapons. Aviram responded
that the 2010 estimate came from a thorough GOI review of all
available intelligence, and was based on the assumption that
Iran would be able to continue proceeding at the current
pace, without running into too many unexpected technical or
political obstacles.

3. (S) Aviram also highlighted Iranian support for Hizballah
and interference in Iraq as serious problems, which had the
potential to complicate the West,s efforts on the nuclear
issue. He said that Iran continues to provide weapons and
training to Palestinian militants. Iranian political and
financial support for Hamas was increasing, he said; in
recent months, Iran has contributed about $250 million to
Hamas.

-------------------------
Hizballah, Lebanon, Syria
-------------------------

4. (S) Aviram said the recent war in Lebanon had been a
victory for moderate forces in the region, because it had
resulted in the deployment of UNIFIL and LAF forces into
southern Labanon. He acknowledged that Hizballah was still
active, and was rapidly rebuilding its military capabilities
with the help of Iran and Syria, but said that at least it
was no longer able to operate openly. The danger at the
moment was that Hizballah might succeed in its political bid
to topple the moderate government of Lebanese PM Siniora.
The IDI also assessed that Hizballah might resort to
provocations that could lead to violence and a general
deterioration of the situation in Lebanon. Aviram said he
hoped the Arab League,s mediation effort would help ease the
tensions. Referring to his meeting with PM Olmert (ref. A),
Senator Nelson asked whether Israel could have dealt a fatal
blow to Hizballah if it had carried on the war for three more
days. Aviram responded that the IDF would not have been able
to destroy Hizballah completely, given the latter,s ability
to conceal weapons and fighters among the civilian population
and unwillingness to acknowledge defeat.

5. (S) On Hizballah,s rearmament efforts, Aviram said he did
not know exactly which weapons Hizballah was now receiving

TEL AVIV 00004892 002 OF 002

from Syria and Iran, but said that Israeli intelligence
continued to watch supply convoys transit the Syrian border.
He described the rearmament process as quiet but &intense.8
In response to a query from Senator Nelson, Aviram said that
while both Syria and Iran have been longtime weapons
suppliers to Hizballah, Syria had in the past shown a
willingness to supply weapons that even the Iranians refused
to provide. Under Bashar al-Assad, he said, Damascus had
shown a cavalier lack of concern over the traceability of its
weapons supplies to Hizballah. During the war, the most
damaging weapon used against Israel was a Syrian-made 220mm
rocket, he said.

---------------------------------
Engaging the Moderate Arab States
---------------------------------

6. (S) Senator Nelson offered that there appeared to be a
growing alignment of interests between Israel and the more
moderate Sunni Arab states, such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi
Arabia, who see a growing threat in Iran. Aviram agreed, and
said the GOI was exploring ways to leverage this new reality.
Aviram cautioned, however, that the ongoing Palestinian
conflict made it difficult for the moderate Arab states to
cooperate with Israel. &They need progress in the
Palestinian arena in order to publicly collaborate with us,8
he said, &but they might also, at some point, be willing to
do clandestine things with us, even absent progress on the
Palestinian front.8 (NOTE: This view differs from PM Olmert,
who argues -- most recently to CODEL McCain (ref. B) -- that
the moderate Arabs do not need Israeli concessions to the
Palestinians in order to work more closely with Israel
against Iran.)

7. (U) CODEL Nelson cleared this message.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
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