Iran already has one-third of the amount of enriched uranium it needs to develop a nuclear weapon, a top Israeli intelligence official has revealed.
Brig-Gen Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's Research Division, told the Israeli cabinet that international efforts to stop Iran's nuclear programme were failing, despite the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which lambasted Tehran for failing to cooperate with United Nations inspectors.
Mr Baidatz said that the Iranians have installed and activated 4,000 centrifuges since the beginning of the year at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and was succeeding in enriching 60 grams of UF-6 an hour.
"Iran is mastering the enrichment technology and is galloping towards a nuclear bomb," he said.
Iran, Mr Baidatz continued, was emboldened by the international community's failure to create a unified front and impose additional sanctions. Three rounds of sanctions have already passed in the UN Security Council.
"Their self-confidence is increasing and they think that the international community is not strong enough to stop them," he said. "The sanctions are having some effect but it is far from being significant."
Former deputy defence minister and Labour MK Ephraim Sneh told the JC that Iran was set to develop a nuclear bomb by 2011 at the latest. He said that the international community had just a few months to impose tougher sanctions before it would be too late.
"The sanctions need to be imposed where it will hurt," he said, proposing limitations on the refining of fuel for Iran, most of which is done abroad.
"This would have a quick impact on the street since people would not be able to get gasoline," he said.
Mr Sneh said that he recently sent a letter to American presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain informing them that in his opinion, if sanctions are not escalated, Israel will begin to seriously consider a strike against the nuclear installations.
Mr Sneh also recently visited Switzerland and Austria to urge government officials there to pull out of billion dollar investments in Iranian infrastructure.