Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Iran: facade on nukes crack

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Update from AIJAC

January 9, 2007
Number 01/07 #03

With weak UN sanctions passed over Iran's illegal nuclear program late last month, Teheran appears to have lets its guard slip a bit in a recent news conference. After insisting constantly that their program is only for peaceful power generation, something virtually no one who knows anything about the subject believes, an Iranian spokesperson has now said that this could change (that is, nuclear weapons could be built) if Iran felt "threatened." For a report on this Iranian revelation, as well as other Iranian claims about the fast pace of their illegal uranium enrichment program, CLICK HERE.

Next, British historian Michael Burleigh comments on how the Iranians see the world and why a crisis seems increasingly likely. He notes in particular that there are now reports that President Ahmadinejad would welcome an outside attack on Iran's nuclear program, as it would provide a justification to launch nuclear weapons at Israel. For this important discussion of the background to Iranian nuclear realities, CLICK HERE.

Finally, American journalist and author Kenneth Timmerman warns that the next six months are likely to be a rough ride. He points out that based on what is firmly known, not intelligence, Iran is projected to have nuclear weapons in late 2008, but that it is likely to have clandestine elements of the program about which little is known, meaning the timeline may actually be much shorter. He predicts military confrontation is likely sooner rather than later. For his full argument, CLICK HERE.


Iranian official: If threatened, we will use nuclear weapons

After countless declarations of peaceful intentions of nuclear plan, Iran's chief nuclear envoy confirms fears by saying if county is threatened, situation may change

Ynet.com, Published:     01.05.07

Associated Press- Iran's chief nuclear envoy Ali Larijani said on Friday that Iran is committed to the peaceful use of nuclear technology but warned the situation could change if his country is threatened.

"We oppose obtaining nuclear weapons and we will peacefully use nuclear technology under the framework of the Nonproliferation Treaty, but if we are threatened, the situation may change," He told a news conference after two days of talks in Beijing.

Iran's nuclear chief said his country has produced and stored 250 tons of the gas used as the feedstock for uranium enrichment, state-run television reported Friday.

Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Iran has kept the uranium hexaflouride gas, or UF-6, in underground tunnels at a nuclear facility in Isfahan to protect it from any possible attack.
"Today, we have produced more than 250 tons of UF-6. Should you visit Isfahan, you will see we have constructed tunnels that are almost unique in the world," State-run television quoted Aghazadeh as saying.
While China has strong trade ties with oil-rich Iran, it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which voted unanimously to bar all countries from selling materials and technology to Iran that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs.

It also froze the assets of 10 Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.

'Iran will stand up to coercion'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday said international sanctions won't stop Iran from enriching uranium, vowing not to give into "Coercion," State-run television reported.

"Iran will stand up to coercion. ... All Iranians stand united to defend their nuclear rights," State-run TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Iran has refused to comply with international demands that it suspend uranium enrichment. It also has condemned as "Invalid" And "Illegal" a UN Security Council resolution passed last month that imposes sanctions against the Islamic Republic for refusing to halt enrichment.
"Enemies have assumed that they can prevent the progress of the Iranian nation through psychological war and issuing resolutions, but they will be defeated," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on state-run TV.

Reuters contributed to this report

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The Iranian who wants an apocalypse

By Michael Burleigh

Daily Telegraph, Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 05/01/2007

One person we will be hearing much about in 2007 will be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's the hollow-eyed engineer and town planner (and former Revolutionary Guard) who in 2005 went from being Teheran's answer to Ken Livingstone to President of Iran. He's the fellow stringing along the international community while his scientists try to manufacture a nuclear bomb before America or Israel decides to degrade or destroy key experimental sites. He says appalling things with demented glee in his eyes.

According to today's Spectator, Ahmadinejad may actually welcome such an attack, since this will "justify" a retaliatory strike against Israel with nuclear weapons acquired from the former Soviet Union. Certainly, Iran's dark role in arming Hizbollah, and even darker machinations in Iraq, suggest an almost wilful disregard for consequences.

Who is Ahmadinejad? In some respects, he resembles those with whom he consorts to ramble on about American imperialism and the wretched of the earth: Hugo Chávez, Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro. Actually, Ahmadinejad is subtly different: you have to grasp a fusion of apocalyptic piety and politics to get what he is about.

Among the lesser-known godfathers of the 1979 Iranian Revolution was the French educated Ali Sharati, who died of a heart attack two years before Khomeni came to power. Sharati's story reminds us of the extent to which various "indigenous" radicalisms are indebted to intellectual contaminants from Western academe.

Just as Pol Pot was a product of academic craziness imbibed at the Sorbonne, so Sharati was much taken with how Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre tried to revive Marxism through talk of cathartic revolutionary violence and the return to the supposed purity of the pre-modern collective. Sharati incorporated these worldly concerns with the Shia longing for the return of the Twelfth Hidden Imam, who departed this earth in 874. The one cleric not to denounce Sharati as a heretic was Khomeni, himself responsible for the slogan "Islam is politics".

Ahmadinejad is unique, not because of his pronouncements about Israel, which he wishes wiped off the face of the earth, but because he actively seeks to bring about an apocalyptic struggle between the righteous and the wicked to accelerate the return of the mahdi or Hidden Imam.

One might think that the prospect of US or Israeli bombs raining down on Iran might sober this visionary. That would be a mistake. Khomeni actually incited war with Iraq in 1980, rejecting Saddam's offers of an armistice two years later. During the eight-year war, an enormous militia, called the Basij, was created under the aegis of the Revolutionary Guard. Boys aged 12 to 17 were dispatched against the Iraqi army, each armed with a plastic key to paradise, manufactured in bulk in Taiwan. A ghostly pale rider occasionally appeared, whose phosphorous-painted face was supposed to be that of the Hidden Imam, to urge these suicide waves on. Mowing these children down — and perhaps as many as 100,000 were killed — was so traumatic that even battle-hardened Iraqi veterans declined to fire.

No Western-style commissions of inquiry have investigated these state-decreed mass suicides between 1980 and 1988. Instead, the Basji are celebrated, with the countenance of one 15-year-old suicide, who detonated himself against an Iraqi tank, evident in the watermark of 500 Rial bank notes.

The Basji have become part of Iran's morality police, poking into cars to sniff out drinkers or women wearing cosmetics, and this time last year cutting off the tongue of Massoud Osanlou, a bus driver who led a transport strike. These youths have also been recruited into a putative army of 54,000 potential suicide bombers, or into university science faculties to bolster Iran's "national security".

If Ahmadinejad and the Basji represent the apocalyptic strain in the Iranian Revolution, what of the so-called moderates, such as former president Hashemi Rafsanjani? Unfortunately, when Ahmadinejad uttered his nuclear threats against Israel, Rafsanjani remarked, "The application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damage in the Muslim world", although he forbore to mention that the desired fate of Israel would be shared by much of Jordan, southern Lebanon and, above all, the Palestinians about whose plight Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani are wont to emote.

How the West responds to these threats is an unavoidable question. It is likely that, within 12 months, Iran's technicians will complete the nuclear cycle needed to produce weapons grade uranium.

There are slight grounds for optimism. Because of Iran's Byzantine dual politico-religious power structures, Ahmadinejad is not in the same position as a Hitler or Saddam. Maybe wiser counsels will draw Iran back from the brink, if only because it would be a casualty of any war. That is why there is some point in exhausting every avenue of Western diplomacy. Given the lies told about WMD and Iraq, it may be that diplomacy will have to continue until Iran has tested a nuclear device, but before it achieves "weaponisation". That calculation excludes the possibility of Iran supplying terrorist organisations with materials to construct a "dirty bomb".

There is widespread resentment among Iranian students about the regime's interference in university life, many of the protests focused on Ahmadinejad himself. Many middle-class Iranians are fed up with having their tastes for whisky or satellite television curbed by interfering clerics, in a country that, despite the morality police, has two million heroin addicts.

So far the international community has passed "lite" sanctions, although whether these will deter German or Russian businessmen remains debateable. Stepped-up sanctions could deprive Iran of credit or damage Iran's already creaking oil refining capacity. Meanwhile, American warships will converge on the Persian Gulf while Israeli submarines practise firing missiles powerful enough to penetrate bunkers buried hundreds of feet underground.

One person will have brought the world to that epochal pass: the serenely smiling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


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Showdown   

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

FrontPageMagazine.com | December 27, 2006

The nuclear crisis boiling away under the surface for the past three years with Iran has finally erupted.

Over the next three to six months, expect things to get much worse, with a very real possibility of a war that could spread far beyond the confines of the Persian Gulf.

How we got here was entirely predictable – and avoidable. So is the path to a violent future.
We got to this point because the White House essentially caved in to intense pressure from the CIA and the foreign policy establishment, and refused to do the one thing that could have headed off this crisis: that is, to support the rights of the Iranian people and their struggle for freedom against this clerical tyranny. And now, it is almost – almost – too late.
The immediate trigger for the crisis occurred on Saturday, just two days before Christmas, when the UN Security Council finally quit dithering and passed a binding resolution to impose sanctions on Iran because of its illegal nuclear program.

While far from perfect (remember: this is the UN), UNSC Resolution 1737 bans nuclear and missile-related trade with Iran, and includes a short list of Iranian government entities and individuals whose assets could be subject to seizure and who could be banned from international travel.

(The United States had wanted both to be mandatory measures in this resolution, but gave in to a Russian demand to again give Iran more leash).

The UN Security Council passed a similar, binding resolution on July 31 giving Iran one month to suspend its nuclear programs in a verifiable manner, or else…It’s taken all this time since that the earlier deadline expired for China and Russia to exhaust their formidable bag of diplomatic tricks. Now even they have come to acknowledge the obvious, that Iran is using the IAEA as a foil for acquiring all the technologies it needs to make the bomb.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded typically to the news from Turtle Bay in New York. “This resolution will not harm Iran and those who backed it will soon regret their superficial act,” he said on Christmas Eve.

“Iranians are neither worried nor uncomfortable with the resolution...we will celebrate our atomic achievements in February,” he added.

In earlier statements, he has claimed Iran would have a big nuclear “surprise” to unveil to the world by the end of the Persian year, which ends on March 20. So unless he is just blowing smoke (and I will explain shortly why I don’t believe that he is), then we will be facing very bleak choices in very short order.

Remember, just a few weeks ago, Ahmadinejad announced to the world that Iran had completed its uranium enrichment experiments and was now preparing to install 3,000 production centrifuges at its now-declared enrichment plant in Natanz, in central Iran.

His announcement fell exactly within the timeline that Israeli nuclear experts have derived from Iran’s public declarations to the IAEA, and the on-site inspections by IAEA experts in Iran.

As I wrote after interviews in Israel this past June, the Israelis projected that Iran would complete work on two 164-centrifuge experimental enrichment cascades within six months, and that installation of the 3,000 centrifuge pilot plant would take another nine months. From then, it would take Iran twelve months more to make its first bomb’s-worth of nuclear fuel.

So far, Iran is right on schedule. This will give it nuclear weapons capability by September 2008 – just in time for the U.S. presidential elections. (And remember: this timeline is not speculative. It is based on information, not intelligence.)

Once the UN Security Council resolution was passed, Ahmadinejad’s top nuclear advisor, Ali Larijani, said the regime now planned to accelerate the installation of the production centrifuges.

“From Sunday morning [December 24] , we will begin activities at Natanz – the site of 3,000-centrifuge machines – and we will drive it with full speed. It will be our immediate response to the resolution,” Iran’s Kayhan paper quoted him as saying.

How is this possible? Well, for one thing, it is likely that Iran has been producing centrifuges in factories and workshops it has not declared to the IAEA. Worse, it may be operating a clandestine enrichment facility buried deep underground already, as many in Israel and U.S. intelligence have long believed.

The Israelis told me this summer this was their “worst-worst case” scenario. But a senior Israeli intelligence official I saw recently said the likelihood of that “worst-worst case” now appeared to be far greater than he or others had previously believed. “There can be no doubt they have a clandestine program,” he said.

And because it’s clandestine, we don’t know the size or shape of it, and therefore can’t make estimates of Iran’s nuclear timeline based on speculation and fear. But now the Israelis, the Americans and the British are beginning to understand – finally – that what they don’t know about Iran could be fatal.

After all, they are facing a president in Iran who has said that the Holocaust never really occurred under Hitler, but that he intended to carry it out himself, by accomplishing Ayatollah Khomeini’s goal of “wiping Israel off the map.”

On December 21 – just two days before the UN Security Council resolution – British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave the bleakest assessment of his entire tenure at 10 Downing Street of the threat posed to the West by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Speaking in Dubai, he gave an unusually blunt speech that warned of a monumental struggle between Islamic moderates and Islamic extremists, and that labeled Iran as “the main obstacle” to hopes for peace.

For the first time, a key world leader actually uttered parts of the laundry list of Iranian regime misdeeds that people like myself and Michael Ledeen and Iranian dissidents such as Rouzbeh Farahanipour and Reza Pahlavi have been warning about for years.

Blair said there were "elements of the government of Iran, openly supporting terrorism in Iraq to stop a fledgling democratic process; trying to turn out a democratic government in Lebanon; floutting the international community's desire for peace in Palestine - at the same time as denying the Holocaust and trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.”

Blair expressed surprise that despite these overt deeds, “a large part of world opinion is frankly almost indifferent. It would be bizarre if it weren't deadly serious.”

"We must recognize the strategic challenge the government of Iran poses," Blair added. "Not its people, possibly not all its ruling elements, but those presently in charge of its policy."

While all of this is developing, the United States and Britain have begun a quiet buildup of their naval forces in the Persian Gulf, with the goal of keeping the Strait of Hormuz open to international shipping.

The spark point of open military confrontation could occur in many different ways.

The Iranians, for example, might choose to get directly involved should the U.S. military aid the Iraqi government in a crackdown on the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army and the Badr brigade, two Shiite militias fueling the sectarian violence in Iraq. (A clear sign that Iran is contemplating just such a move was revealed on Christmas day, when the U.S. Acknowledged it was holding four Iranians captured during a raid on the Headquarters of Abdulaziz al-Hakim in Baghdad just three weeks after he met with President Bush in the Oval Office).

Should Iran send troops, or escalate its current level of military involvement in Iraq, the U.S. might choose to take the war into Iran, say by attacking Revolutionary Guards bases near the Iraqi border that were involved in aiding the Iraqi Shi'ite militias.

Should the United States bomb a Rev. Guards base here or there, the Iranians might choose to respond by launching “swarming” attacks against U.S. warships in the Persian gulf, or by attacking a foreign-flagged oil tanker carrying Iraqi or Kuwaiti oil, or by increasing rocket and missile supplies to Hezbollah in Lebanon to spark another diversionary war against Israel.

There are scores of ways this could happen. But where it gets us is to a direct military confrontation with Iran – an Iran which could be a nuclear power, and certainly will be a suspected nuclear power, in a matter of months, if not weeks.

And there is no easy way of walking this back. Even the insane Baker-Hamilton proposal of a direct dialogue with Iran will not get them to abandon their nuclear program, which this regime in Tehran has clearly identified as a strategic asset it is willing to make great sacrifices to develop and protect.

So fasten your seat belts. We are in for a rough ride.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum, New York), and Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.