The IDF believes that Iran is running a secret nuclear weapons program in parallel to the one it had agreed this week to temporarily suspend.
Senior military sources told The Jerusalem Post that in the worst-case scenario Iran could produce a nuclear bomb within two years.
"Without a more determined stance by the West against Iran, they will reach a point of no return within six months," said a senior officer. From then it would take another 18 to 24 months to produce a nuclear bomb, they added.
Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush tried to marshal international support to counter dual nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Chile. Reports from the US said that Iran is racing to produce large quantities of enriched uranium that can be used for making nuclear weapons before its agreed-upon program freeze goes into effect this week.
"The Iranians have a 'declared' secret program which they have agreed to temporarily suspend," said one senior Israeli officer. "But they also have a 'secret' secret program. The agreement with the Europeans is not touching this program. Furthermore, it is our understanding that the suspension is only temporary and partial."
The military source said the negotiations Iran conducted with Britain, France, and Germany over the pace of its uranium enrichment program amounted to a "Persian bazaar."
The military sources declined to give details about their knowledge of Iran's parallel program.
The assessment in the IDF is that once Iran has converted several dozen tons of uranium tetrafluoride (yellow cake) into UF6 (uranium hexafluoride), it would be able to make a few bombs.
The IDF source also said that the Iranian test launches of the Shihab-3 rockets conducted in August and October were part of a program to extend their range and put Europe and Asia in its reach.
"It is very important for the Iran government to hear that we are concerned about their desires and we're concerned about reports that show that before a certain international meeting, they're willing to speed up the processing of materials that could lead to a nuclear weapon," Bush said on Saturday. "This is a very serious matter. The world knows it's a serious matter and we're working together to solve this matter," he said.
Bush lauded the efforts of European nations involved in diplomacy to persuade Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons. "They do believe that Iran has got nuclear ambitions, as do we, as do many around the world," Bush said.
A State Department official and a senior administration official said Iranian technicians were converting uranium ore into substantial quantities of uranium hexafluoride gas before Monday's deadline at a facility in the central city of Isfahan.
The new allegations could escalate tensions over Iran's nuclear intentions ahead of a meeting Thursday of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the Islamic republic's nuclear activities. It also cast further doubt on Iran's goodwill.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said over the weekend that Iran was working on fitting nuclear warheads to its missiles.
The US wants the IAEA to refer the matter to the UN Security Council for consideration of economic sanctions.
Iran denies that it is seeking nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear activities are for generating electric power.
AP contributed to this report.
Echoed by Mansoor Ijaz on Fox today.
Is this what we sold 5,000 JDAMs to Israel for?