By: David A. Patten, Newsmax
Analysts fear a dramatic advance in North Korea’s nuclear missile technology, revealed inadvertently during a Congressional hearing Thursday, will quickly find its way to Iran — forcing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fast-track a long-contemplated attack against Tehran’s nuclear-enrichment facilities.
Pentagon officials are playing down a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that North Korea probably has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and place it on an ICBM. U.S. officials say that miniaturization capability, if it exists, is untested and unreliable.
In February, North Korea detonated what is described as a “lighter, miniaturized atomic bomb.” At the time, there was speculation this could signal the Hermit Kingdom had developed a nuclear warhead that it could place on its long-range missiles. Pentagon officials, however, continued to insist North Korea was at least a year away from developing that capability.
Jerusalem Post defense analyst Yaakov Katz, author of “Israel vs. Iran: The Shadow War,” tells Newsmax that U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials have generally agreed that it would take Iran six to 12 months to build a nuclear device once it tried to break out and enrich its material from the 20-percent to the 90-percent level required. Beyond that, intelligence experts have projected, it would then take Iran another year or two to produce a miniaturized warhead that could be installed on a missile.
Now, Katz says, the time lag between reaching nuclear capability and Iran’s ability to arm a missile with a nuclear warhead appears to have vanished. That means Thursday’s revelation could reduce Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nonmilitary options against Iran, forcing the Jewish state to step up its timetable for attacking the Persian nation should it acquire enough enriched uranium to be a significant threat.
“If the North Koreans are much more advanced than we assumed, then that could mean that when the Iranians surge to move forward, that the whole time frame would change also,” Katz tells Newsmax. “It would mean Israel and the West would have to revisit the time frames that they’ve put in for the Iranians, and that could be much shorter now — which means your window of opportunity [to attack] is also becoming smaller.”
Experts say Israel would have to assume that any North Korean miniaturization technology would soon find its way into the hands of Iran’s mullahs. In fact, it is possible Iranian technology enabled North Korea’s push to miniaturize its warheads — the step that makes them capable of being installed on an ICBM. There is widespread agreement in the intelligence community that the two embattled nations routinely exchange technology, and sometimes military hardware as well.
“That’s no secret,” says Katz. “There’s been a lot of cooperation between the Iranians and the North Koreans.”
He adds: “Israel has always made the assessment that whatever is going on in North Korea, you have to assume it’s also … taking place in Iran. So that technical cooperation is still working.”