TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian diplomat says Tehran will not stop uranium enrichment “for a moment,” defying demands from the U.N. and world powers to halt its suspect nuclear program.
Iran’s nuclear ambitions demand urgent reaction from international community
By Stephen Hadley, Joseph I. Lieberman and Jim Steinberg, Published: June 13
Stephen Hadley was national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. Joseph Lieberman is a former independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. Jim Steinberg is a former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration.
International reaction to the latest round of unsuccessful nuclear talks with Iran more than two months ago has been disconcertingly muted. Perhaps, after nearly a decade of stalled negotiations, the world has become numb to Iranian intransigence, a policy that is unlikely to change no matter who wins the country’s presidential election Friday.
But a sense of crisis is warranted by the April deadlock in Kazakhstan, and it should be a turning point in the U.S. approach to Iran.
While Iran has been stonewalling the international community at the negotiating table, its nuclear program has progressed — and is poised to make advances that call into question the sustainability of U.S. Strategy.
These advances include introducingnext-generation centrifuges that can enrich much larger quantities of uranium more quickly, significantly reducing the time that Tehran will need to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran is also making progress on a heavy-water reactor capable of producing plutonium, which could provide an alternate path to the bomb by the end of next year.
These developments reflect Iran’s broader success in fundamentally transforming its nuclear program over the past decade despite increasingly tough sanctions.
When theInternational Atomic Energy Agency issued its first report on Iran’s nuclear activities, in June 2003, Tehran had no working centrifuge facilities and no stockpiles of enriched uranium. Ten years later, it has almost 17,000 centrifuges at two compounds and more than six tons of uranium enriched to 5 percent purity; if further enriched, that could produce approximately five nuclear bombs.
Iran also has a growing stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is significantly closer to weapons-grade. Some have suggested drawing reassurance from the fact that Iran has been shunting some of this stockpile into a form that is less proliferation-sensitive. It could, however, be converted back into centrifuge feedstock in a short period.
We have been strong supporters of a dual-track approach to Iran that has combinedincreasing pressure from sanctions and diplomatic isolation with persistent efforts at negotiations with Tehran. The Obama administration has been right to pursue this path over the past four years.
But given Iran’s accelerating nuclear advances and refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations, the time is fast approaching when diplomacy will be of little or no value or credibility. The United States urgently needs to take several steps that will significantly sharpen the choice faced by Iran’s leaders.
First, we believe the United States — with the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany — should put forward a bold, comprehensive settlement offer that would be attractive to the Iranian people and viewed as more than fair by the international community. Should Iran reject this offer, the United States would then be in a strong position to rally the international community for significantly tougher measures against Tehran. Such measures should include intensified multilateral sanctions against Iran — ideally through a new U.N. Security Council resolution that could universalize the energy, insurance and financial sanctions that the United States and the European Union have adopted over the past two years. Washington should also step up its own targeted efforts, both unilaterally and with allies, to disrupt and set back Iran’s nuclear program.
In addition, the United States needs to strengthen its position and credibility across the Middle East to change the calculus of Iran’s leaders. The Obama administration’s recent reengagement on Arab-Israeli peace represents a valuable step, but others are needed — in particular, much more decisive action to hasten the end of the Assad regime in Syria.
Even more directly, the Obama administration should signal unequivocally that the United States is prepared to take military action against Iran absent a diplomatic breakthrough.
We are convinced that if diplomacy with Iran fails, President Obama is serious that all options, including the use of force, are on the table. Unfortunately, there are indications that the regime in Tehran continues to doubt the seriousness of U.S. intentions, which makes a peaceful resolution less likely.
To counter this, the administration should publicly announce that it has plans for military action against Iranian nuclear and missile facilities, conduct military exercises in the region in a systematic and sustained way consistent with those plans, deploy U.S. military forces to protect critical assets of our allies in the region and prepare to close down overseas Hezbollah cells and expose Iranian intelligence agents.
The administration should also begin consultations with our allies in Europe and the Middle East about the growing prospect that military action will be necessary as well as talks with Congress where, we believe, a strong bipartisan majority is ready to give the president the authority to take necessary action.
It is no longer possible to shrug off the ongoing diplomatic impasse with Tehran. The United States and the international community must approach this crisis with the clarity, determination and urgency it demands and deserves.
Iran’s bid to buy banned magnets stokes fears about major expansion of nuclear capacity
Iran’s quest to possess nuclear technology: Iran said it has made advances in nuclear technology, citing new uranium enrichment centrifuges and domestically made reactor fuel.
14 FEBRUARY 2013 – 22H02
Iran sought nuclear parts in China: report
AFP – Iran tried to smuggle thousands of specialized magnets through China for its centrifuges, in an effort to speed its path to reaching nuclear weapons capability, according to a new US report.
The report, by a renowned American nuclear scientist, said the operation highlighted the importance of China as a transit point for Iran’s nuclear program, and called for sanctions against any Chinese firms involved.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) report said an Iranian front company used a Chinese commercial website to try to acquire 100,000 ring-shaped magnets, which it is banned from importing under United Nations sanctions, in late 2011.
Two magnets were needed for each of 50,000 first-generation centrifuges used to enrich uranium at Iran’s nuclear plants, in a process that Western powers say is designed to build nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
The ISIS report by US scientist David Albright suggested that the operation meant that Iran was trying to “greatly expand” its number of first-generation centrifuges even as it builds more advanced machines.
“China needs to do more to show that it is a responsible member of the global economy,” the report said.
“In particular, it should crack down on the efforts of Iranian smuggling networks.”
The ISIS said it could not establish whether Iran found a Chinese supplier willing to provide the ring magnets.
The Washington Post, which first reported the ISIS report, quoted a European diplomat with access to intelligence as saying Iran was positioning itself to make swift progress on its nuclear program.
“Each step forward makes the situation potentially more dangerous,” the unnamed diplomat was quoted as saying.
The White House would not comment explicitly on the ISIS report but said that it was aware of Iran’s “aggressive” efforts to avert UN sanctions.
“The unprecedented international sanctions put in place against Iran are not only designed to crystallize the choice for the Iranian regime regarding its nuclear program, but also to deter and disrupt Iranian procurement of components to support its nuclear program,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The report will raise new concerns about the extent of progress in Iran’s nuclear program, despite international sanctions, which will be at the top of the agenda when President Barack Obama visits Israel next month.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Iran was now closer to crossing the “red line” after which it would be able to build a nuclear weapon but had not yet reached that stage.
It will also raise the stakes for the latest round of talks between world powers and Tehran, due to take place in two weeks.
Iran has enough uranium for five nuclear weapons, claims US thinktank
Institute for Science and International Security says uranium output up by a third but needs more refining for use in bombs
Wisdom from Marshal Zhukov – great general – defender of Moscow – conqueror of Berlin
The very existence of nuclear weapons harbours the possibility of their employment, and certain madmen might go to the length of using them in spite of everything. It is our duty to do our utmost to have these weapons banned….It should be remembered that atomic weapons are double-edged. Atomic war is just as dangerous to the attacker as to the attacked.
“When Zhukov warned of the devastation that would result from nuclear war it was the heartfelt plea from someone who had seen such large-scale destruction first hand.”
Hizbullah MP General (Ret.) Walid Sakariya On Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV: Iranian Nuclear Weapon To ‘Finish Off The Zionist Enterprise’
MI6 chief Sir John Sawers: ‘We foiled Iranian nuclear weapons bid’
MI6 agents have foiled Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons but the Middle Eastern state will succeed in arming itself within the next two years, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service has warned.
–Sir John Sawers, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6 –
–By Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent –
10:00PM BST 12 Jul 2012
Sir John Sawers said that covert operations by British spies had prevented the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons as early as 2008.
However, the MI6 chief said it was now likely they would achieve their goal by 2014, making a military strike from the US and Israel increasingly likely.
Sir John gave a secret briefing to the Cabinet in March about Iran’s growing military threat but this is the first time his views on the issue have been made public.
It is extremely rare for the head of MI6 to disclose details of operations by the intelligence service.
Sir John made the remarks at a meeting of around 100 senior civil servants in London last week in only his second public speech since he was appointed to the post in 2009.
Speaking at the Civil Service Live event in Olympia he said that Iran was now “two years away” from becoming a “nuclear weapons state”.
He said that “when that moment came” Israel or the United States would have to decide whether to launch a military strike.
“The Iranians are determinedly going down a path to master all aspects of nuclear weapons; all the technologies they need,” he said. “It’s equally clear that Israel and the United States would face huge dangers if Iran were to become a nuclear weapon state.”
Sir John said that without MI6’s work dealing with the threat, “you’d have Iran as a nuclear weapons state in 2008 rather than still being two years away in 2012.”
Sir John said it was up to MI6 to “delay that awful moment when the politicians may have to take a decision between accepting a nuclear-armed Iran or launching a military strike against Iran.”
When that moment came, he said: “I think it will be very tough for any prime minister of Israel or president of the United States to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Iran has previously accused Israel and the US of trying to disrupt its nuclear programme through covert operations by Mossad, MI6 and the CIA.
Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been apparently assassinated in recent years while a powerful computer virus known as Stuxnet attacked the computer systems of their nuclear facilities.
Britain and America denied the allegations but Israel has remained silent on the issue.
Sir John disclosed that MI6 has “run a series of operations to ensure that the sanctions introduced internationally are implemented, and that we do everything we can within the Middle East to slow down these remaining problems.
“I take great pride in the fact that, in the last ten years, over a number of jobs, I’ve been involved in an issue of global concern, and I feel that I as an individual [have made] an impact in the outcome of events.”
The session – which was open to visitors to the event – was titled “Unclassified chat: Sir John Sawers CMG” and was reported in Civil Service World, a publication which is dedicated to senior Whitehall officials.
Disclosure of his remarks came as the US stepped up their sanctions against front companies suspected of supplying appaernt nuclear materials to Iran after an international oil embargo started earlier this month.
His warning of a nuclear Iran in 2014 could throw the Coalition into turmoil just before the next general election.
The Liberal Democrats have ruled out supporting any military action against the regime but David Cameron has repeatedly said that “all options” are on the table.
Senior Conservatives believe that the issue could finally cause the Coalition to split as Britain would be forced to support any American action.
In March, Sir John spoke to more than 20 ministers about the latest intelligence on the growing fear that Israel is poised to launch a pre-emptive strike against Tehran.
The secrecy around the briefing was so high that ministers were ordered to leave their mobile phones outside the Cabinet room.
There are claims that basic mobile phones, without specialist anti-eavesdropping security, can be converted into “listening devices” by foreign intelligence agencies.
The highly unusual briefing was thought to have raised questions about Israel’s military capacity to destroy Iranian nuclear sites, which are buried deep underground.
The MI6 chief was also understood to have warned about the potential threat to Britain from a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
That came after Foreign secretary William Hague warned that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons threatened to trigger a “new Cold War” that posed an even greater threat of nuclear conflict than the stand-off between the USSR and the West.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Hague said that Iran was threatening to spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East which could be more dangerous than the original East-West Cold War as there are not the same “safety mechanisms” in place.
“It is a crisis coming down the tracks,” he said. “Because they are clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme…
“If they obtain nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons.
“And so, the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since nuclear weapons were invented would have begun with all the destabilizing effects in the Middle East.
“And the threat of a new cold war in the Middle East without necessarily all the safety mechanisms … That would be a disaster in world affairs.”
Gen. Hossein Salami, in a televised interview, boasted that, “Iran has complete control of all the enemy’s interests around the world and is on a path to reach equivalency with world powers.” The commander emphasized that Iran’s nuclear program is irreversible, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Salami said war is inevitable, and the Iranian forces are ready.
Two Iranians from elite Revolutionary Guard unit arrested in Kenya while ‘plotting to attack U.S., Israeli and British targets’
Suspects: Iranian nationals Sayed Mansour Mousavi, left, and Ahmed Abolfathi Mohammed, right, are accused of planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Kenya
Iranian Media: Islamic World Needs Nuclear Weapon
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/12/2012, 2:49 PM
Iranian state-run media has published a commentary that stated, “The Islamic world should rise up and shout that a nuclear bomb is our right.”
The regime under Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has constantly stated that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The commentary was published by Fars News Agency, which is run by the Revolutionary Guards tightly and usually publishes official opinion. It indicates that Iran is changing gears, said Erick Staklebeck, who writes for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Staklebeck noted that the Islamic world already has nuclear weapons because Pakistan is known to have approximately 110 such weapons.
“If Pakistan uses one of its nukes, it will be to the East, against its arch-rival, India. Iran, on the other hand, clearly has its sights set on the United States, Europe and Israel,” he wrote.
The commentary, which he said he received from a friend, was written by Alireza Forghani, a former governor of southern Iran’s Kish Province and an analyst and a strategy specialist “in the camp of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”
Iran could possibly rationalize its “peaceful objectives” for nuclear power by arguing that a nuclear bomb would create peace if it were to be used on Israel to achieve Ahmadinejad’s stated objective of annihilating Zionism. Forghani wrote in February that Iran should stage a “pre-emptive” strike on Israel.
Forghani wrote on Sunday, “The fatwa from Imam Khomeini [the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution -- ed.] said ‘all Islamic countries have Islamic blood.’ Therefore the Islamic world should rise up and shout that a nuclear bomb is our right, and disrupt the dreams of America and Israel.”
“Having a nuclear bomb is our right. Israel would have been destroyed completely 30 years ago” but remains because of its assumed possession of nuclear warheads.
“The Islamic republic, after the victory of the 1979 revolution, faced a hard reality of its enemies trying to overthrow the only true Islamic republic in the world,” he wrote. “The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, headed by America with cooperation by its European allies and some in Asia — [and] using the tools such as the United Nations, other international organizations and NATO — have continuously pursued their goal of overthrowing the … government.”
Staklebeck commented that the article indicates that Iranian leaders are “telegraphing their intentions towards us and are very close to acquiring nuclear weapons that will make their apocalyptic visions a reality.”
In two previous posts, this blog addressed the issue of Iranian expantionist and nuclear ambitions. While it is possible that this salient issue of WMD can be resolved through diplomacy, it is improbable that the Tehran government will divorce ego from their ideology and be dissuaded. Developing The Bomb was Iranian policy before the fall of the Shah.
Negotiation with Hitler and his Nazi ideology failed. The mullocaracy sustains their own ideology of the 12th imam’s return.
CIA: IRAN NUKE EXPANSION
IRAN BOOSTS ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM IN 2011 ADDING BOTH NUCLEAR MATERIAL AND FACILITIES, CIA REPORT SAYS
Iran tells ex-Japan PM it will stand by nuclear rights
SATURDAY, 07 APRIL 2012
West will soon have to accept nuclear Iran: Iran MP
SUNDAY, 08 APRIL 2012
Iran vows to stick to nuclear ‘path’
AFP -Iran declared on Monday it will not be swayed from its nuclear “path” by sanctions, a week before talks with world powers that are increasingly seen as a last chance for diplomacy in its showdown with the West.
“The sanctions may have caused us small problems but we will continue our path,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi vowed in an interview with the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
“We do not underestimate any enemy, no matter how tiny and lowly they are. The regime’s officials — the supreme leader, the president, the army, the (Revolutionary) Guards and Basij (militia) — are completely vigilant. And the nation is prepared to defend the achievements of Islamic Iran,” he said.
The defiant words came after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that the talks between Iran and the world powers would take place April 13 and 14 in Istanbul.
She and US President Barack Obama have both publicly said that the window for diplomacy in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme is closing.
“Our policy is one of prevention, not containment,” Clinton said in Saudi Arabia after talks with her Gulf Arab counterparts.
It is up to Iran to engage in the talks “with an effort to obtain concrete results,” Clinton said.
Israel — the sole if undeclared nuclear weapons state in the Middle East — and the United States have threatened military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities if diplomacy and sanctions fail to curb the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions.
The UN Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran because of suspicions over its nuclear programme, which the United States and its allies believe includes a drive to develop atomic weapons capability.
The West has imposed its own unilateral economic sanctions on Iran.
But Iran’s oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, told the Mehr news agency on Monday that the West’s efforts to curb Iranian oil exports “have been a failure”.
“We have seen off what they describe as ‘rigorous sanctions’ against the oil industry,” he said.
Iran denies any military dimension to its nuclear activities.
Its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called nuclear weapons a “sin”. But he has also refused to bow to sanctions, and warned Iran would retaliate in kind if attacked.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in an interview with the Fars news agency that Iran considered the talk of war to be a “psychological” gambit “to affect the Iranian nation, to lower the support of the people for the system.”
But, he said, “our readiness (to ward off any threat) is at its peak. We take any threat, even those with a low probability of happening, seriously.
“If any practical action, either surgical or long-lasting, is taken, we will respond decisively.”
The talks between Iran and the P5+1 group — the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany — are seen as an opportunity to defuse the tense situation.
EU officials in Brussels said that, despite Clinton’s affirmation, Istanbul had not yet been fully confirmed as the venue.
“The talks are scheduled to start late on the 13th and will be held primarily on the 14th,” one EU diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
They will “very likely” take place in Istanbul, but all parties had not yet reached complete agreement, the diplomat said.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the P5+1 in the negotiations, said only: “We will announce it (the venue) formally once we have full agreement.”
The last round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group was held in Istanbul in January 2011 and ended in failure. Geneva hosted the round before that in late 2010.
The United States is poised to bolster unilateral sanctions that are already making it harder for Iran to sell its vital oil exports. Countries that do not reduce Iranian oil imports risk being targeted by US sanctions.
But Salehi stressed to IRNA: “The West thinks that Iran is like many other countries who will yield under America’s pressure. But they are mistaken.”
He said Iran had resisted Western pressure ever since it became an Islamic republic following its 1979 revolution. And he said the United States would be forced to retreat from its positions if Iranian “national unity” was strengthened.
DE BORCHGRAVE: Second Holocaust?
By Arnaud de Borchgrave The Washington Times Wednesday, March 28, 201
“Showdown” is splashed in large red letters across the April cover of the conservative monthly Newsmax. Followed, in smaller letters, by “Iran’s Plan for a Second Holocaust Must Be Stopped.” And, in parentheses, in still smaller type, between the twin grim-looks of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel’s http://www.washingtontimes.com/topics/benjamin-netanyahu/ ” >Benjamin Netanyahu, the cover story brackets the author “[by John Bolton].”
It is a remarkable document and a “must” read.
A superhawk, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and has been leading the crusade to bomb Iran’s key nuclear installations. He is convinced that Iran>, once in possession of its first nuclear weapon, will promptly fire on Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, and, if successful, Israel will cease to exist as a modern, vibrant Jewish nation.
For Mr. Bolton, Iran’s superannuated mullahs are members of the board of directors of a central bank that funds and arms terrorists worldwide -Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Shi’ite terrorists in Iraq, and the Sunni Taliban and other radical groups in Afghanistan. Mr. Bolton also quotes James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, saying Iran even has a “shotgun marriage” with al Qaeda.
A number of intelligence and military heavyweights – ranging from the recent chiefs of Israel’s three principal intelligence agencies (Mossad, Shin Bet and Israel Defense Force) to three former U.S. Centcomcommanders ( Gen. John Abizaid, Gen. Anthony C. Zinni and Adm. William J. Fallon) – have weighed in against bombing Iran’s nuclear installations.
They also know that Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities that range from sowing hundreds of mines in the Strait of Hormuz (through which passes 30 percent of the world’s seaborne oil) to taking out oil production facilities in hostile Gulf nations, as well as attacking U.S. bases and facilities throughout the Middle East. Oil prices wouldn’t take long to triple.
Most of Mr. Bolton’s geopolitical backers were those also arguing for the invasion of Iraq, beginning a whole year before it took place in 2003. After spending more than $1 trillion in Iraq, the U.S. now has the world’s largest embassy in Baghdad – 104 acres on the banks of the Tigris River, 15,000 employees, including 2,000 diplomats (vs. 85 in neighboring Turkey), at a cost of $736 million and $1 billion a year to run – but it still has lost the battle for influence to Iran. At least that’s what recent high-level Iraqi officials say when speaking privately on their visits to Washington.
There is nothing new about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
In 1968, a few months before Richard M. Nixon was sworn in as president, Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Wilson decided that his country would give up all of its security obligations east of Suez, all the way to Singapore. The Nixon Doctrine then anointed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran as the guardian of the Persian Gulf and its statistics-defying oil reserves.
Throughout the 1970s, the shah spent tens of billions on troop carriers – from nine Boeing 747s to huge Hovercraft – so he could react in less than a day to any coup attempts in the Gulf by the Soviet bloc and its friends, such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Throughout the post-World War II era, Britain managed the same security watch with its Trucial Oman Scouts units for $40 million a year.
In 1972, the shah predicted to this reporter that one day Iran would ensure the security of the Persian Gulf by becoming a nuclear power. No sooner was the shah deposed by the mullahs in 1979 than secret plans were laid to pursue the same quest.
Three decades later, they are almost there.
U.S., Israel use sabotage in their diplomatic arsenal against nuclear showdown in Iran
Published: Tuesday, April 03, 2012, 5:00 AM
By Doyle McManus
Not long ago, an astute reader noted that it has been nearly two years since I wrote in a column that “most experts now estimate that Iran needs about 18 months to complete a nuclear device and a missile to carry it.”
His point — that those estimates were way off — was a good one, especially since experts are still estimating that Iran is 18 months away from being able to build a nuclear weapon.
So what gives? Why does Iran always seem to be about 18 months away from a nuclear bomb, at least in the eyes of U.S. Officials?
For starters, estimates are only estimates. It’s hard to get a fix on the state of Iran’s research when Tehran refuses to allow full access for international inspectors to its military facilities.
The experts cite two other factors for why their forecasts were so far off. One is that Iran’s leaders seem not to have actually decided to build nuclear weapons; for the moment, they appear to prefer being a potential nuclear power to actually owning the weapons.
The other factor is sabotage. Those estimates of 18 months were based on what Iran could accomplish if all went well in its nuclear facilities. “But all never has gone well, and all will continue to not go well,” a U.S. official told me recently.
Israel’s vice prime minister, Moshe Yaalon, put it more bluntly last week. “All sorts of things are happening” in Iran, he told Israel’s Army Radio. “Sometimes there are explosions. Sometimes there are worms there, (computer) viruses — all kinds of things like that.”
Neither the United States nor Israel admit that they are behind a sabotage campaign that has made Iran’s nuclear centrifuges unreliable, its computer software buggy and its precision steel defective. And the Obama administration has condemned the assassination plots, presumably the work of Israel, that have killed at least four Iranian nuclear scientists. But both Israeli and American officials predict that more sabotage is to come.
Oddly enough, all that sabotage may turn out to be the sturdy handmaiden of diplomacy — and an alternative to all-out war.
This month, Iran and six of the world’s major powers, including the United States, are scheduled to resume negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program. The Obama administration hopes that the pressures of sabotage, military threats and economic sanctions — including a European embargo on Iranian oil that takes effect July 1 — will prompt Iran to accept fuller international inspections of its facilities and limits on its nuclear enrichment.
Obama and others have warned that this may be the last chance for diplomacy to avert military action.
And there is considerable sentiment against a war. Military officers in both the United States and Israel have warned that airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, while they might delay Tehran’s ambitions, wouldn’t end the threat, and they could prompt Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to order a full-scale commitment to nuclear weapons.
Of course, negotiations aren’t likely to be a quick fix either.
An international agreement to stop Iran’s nuclear work, reduce its stocks of uranium and set up an international inspection regime would likely take years to negotiate. Iranians are deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions — and not without reason, since many American leaders have called for regime change in Tehran.
Meanwhile, Israel has insisted that it only has months to wait, not years — because it worries about Iran building enough defenses around its nuclear facilities to create what Defense Minister Ehud Barak calls a “zone of immunity” against attack.
What’s the alternative?
Once again, it’s likely to come back to sabotage — a middle option between all-out war and acceding to continued progress toward a nuclear Iran.
In a recent article, Michael O’Hanlon and Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution proposed relying on sabotage as part of a strategy they dub “constriction.”
“Essentially, we would continue to delay and minimize the scale of Iran’s nuclear program as we have been doing through sanctions and other means,” they wrote in The Washington Post. “We would keep doing this indefinitely, even if Iran gets a nuclear weapon.”
“There is little near-term prospect of reaching an agreement with Iran. But we can pursue the same goal with other means,” they argued. “Non-military methods have already slowed Iran’s nuclear program by two to three years. … That is every bit as much as we could hope to slow Iran with an airstrike campaign.”
The goal would be to find a way to freeze Iran’s nuclear work where it stands — which means that on Groundhog Day two years from now, I just might be writing another column to explain why Tehran is still, oh, about 18 months from a nuclear weapon.
Doyle McManus is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times.
Rafsanjani Calls For Dialogue With the U.S.
On Iran, Reality Bites
By JOHN VINOCUR
Published: April 9, 2012
PARIS — Bad news: the Obama administration and the West hold a lousy hand as they go into talks with Iran.
Result: an emboldened Iran. Indeed, a Tehran parliamentarian said over the weekend that Iran can now produce 90-plus enriched uranium and thus, in theory, a nuclear weapon.
That’s both a test and a taunt. It’s also a way of saying (and provoking dissension among the allies) that the West is already tolerating a nuclear-capable Iran — that is, one that hasn’t assembled a weapon but holds the necessary technology and components in hand, just like Japan.
At the same time, the Obama administration has left its European counterparts with a virtual certainty: that it wants the talks to extend until Election Day, Nov. 4. This is based on the flimsy premise that Israel will be reluctant to strike Iran as long as the talks continue.
Yet the administration’s approach to the conversations does not include a clear exit strategy, which intensifies the likelihood of their dawdling futility.
The French, in this context, are describing themselves as “guardians of the temple,” meaning that they have suspicions of U.S. concessions that would bend or skirt the Security Council’s requirements for the mullahs to prove their total disengagement from pursuing nukes. (Think, in the worst case, of a triangular deal with Russia and Iran reflecting Mr. Obama’s on-mike appeal to Vladimir Putin for “space” in exchange for “flexibility” on missile defense.)
Indeed, France is opposed to an Israeli strike. But when it comes to exerting pressure, Mr. Longuet, seemingly addressing the administration, said, “The real problem in the Middle East is Iran not Israel.”
Did he fear a major international conflict — as administration officials warn — in the event of a strike? “International, no,” he answered.
Nowhere — really nowhere — is there optimism the talks will succeed.
So what to do?
Mr. Obama should make clear that further sanctions on Iran, with the addition of prohibitions involving Europe’s oil trade beginning July 1, will intensify short of conclusive, verifiable steps by Iran to halt its drive for nukes.
He could well try buying himself more “space” — and get past the election in the process — by trying to bring together American and Israeli timelines on when Iran’s drive becomes irreversible. In an article, often referred to as authoritative, in late January, the Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman said that Israel believed that it had nine months in which to act before Iranian targets entered an “ immunity zone,” while it considered that the United States, with its wider capabilities, had 15.
There are no guarantees Israel would lengthen its notational time frame to 15 months, but Washington could try by providing it with additional refueling aircraft and 200 GBU-31 bunker busters.
Doing so with time left on the clock for some unmistakable compliance from Tehran would at the same time draw a red line defining for the mullahs what the president meant when he said the U.S. would always “have Israel’s back.”
His default position if, as is likely, the clock runs out?
Mr. Obama, as well as Iran, is stuck with his having said in an election year that he finds it “entirely appropriate” that “Israel’s leaders will make determinations based on what they believe is best for the security of Israel.”
In a world of dreams and miracles, the conversations, starting Saturday, would end with the mullahs renouncing their drive toward nuclear weapons, and the disappearance of a thunderhead of foreboding and grief.
Reality says otherwise, three ways.
It demonstrates that the Iranians are emboldened by the West’s backing off in Syria. It acknowledges that some of the allies have serious concerns about Barack Obama’s willingness to make concessions and stretch out the talks, playing for time, Iranian-style, until after the U.S. presidential election. And it imposes the conclusion that there is no visible way these so-called confidence building exchanges (don’t call them negotiations) can produce confidence solid enough for the United States, Britain, France and Germany to believe that Iran is willing to cast aside the nuclear military program they accuse it of running.
Backed by Russia and China, Tehran has little reason to offer more than a reformulation of its standard maze of denials and ambiguities in response to the West’s weak diplomatic cards.
As little as a month ago, the Obama administration was talking about the imminent departure of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s leader. His ouster would have been a vast blow to Iran, which regards Assad as its closest ally and buffer.
But the West buckled in the face of Russian and Chinese resistance, withdrawing its U.N. Security Council draft resolution that demanded that Assad leave and that Russia halt its supply of arms to Syria. No substantive Western action followed. Assad remains. This is a terrible precedent.
Last week, I asked Gérard Longuet, the French defense minister, how he now would describe the circumstances in Syria. His frankness was startling: “Iran has won the round and Russia was its accomplice.”
PM Netanyahu is nuts if he attacks Iran in October in order to take advantage of President Obama’s vulnerability running for re-election. A strike against Iran during the presidential election would be calculated to force American support for a war with Iran.
By taking this action, the Israelis run the risk of being overwhelmed in a conflict on four fronts, that include a rain of missiles from Hezbollah as well as from Syria. Moreover, Assad’s adversaries could turn from civil war in Syria to attack a common enemy. According to sources in Israel, Egypt has established antiaircraft missile batteries in the Sinai; terrorists do not posses fighter-bombers. Egypt has also deployed tanks on the Sinai border ostensibly to intimidate Islamists who have proliferated in the the desert.
As long as Syria remains in turmoil, Netanyahu should wait and avoid a possible military confrontation his forces can not contain. There is a difference between a calculated risk and a gamble. A calculated risk, like the D-Day invasion, allows a military force to recover. A gamble on the other hand, like Custer’s attempt to wipe out the Indian encampment on the Little Big Horn, can end in irretrievable disaster.
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