Iran prepares for 60% uranium enrichment
DEBKAfile, Aug 3 2012
The months of negotiations with the six world powers were happily used by Iran for great strides toward bringing its nuclear weapon program to fruition. Tehran’s back-channel dialogue with Washington leading up to the negotiations served the same purpose. Since diplomacy ran aground, war has become inevitable and preparations for cutting short Iran’s rapid progress have accelerated. Former Mossad director Ephraim Halevi commented to the NYT on Aug 2 that if he was an Iranian he would be very worried in the next 12 weeks. Developments in Iran and the region at large are generating the current eve-of-war climate in the Middle East:
- While Saeed Jalili communed at leisure with Catherine Ashton in world capitals, uranium enrichment levels in Iran crept past 20% in expanded quantities. The six powers are understandably reluctant to admit that in the time bought by negotiations, Iran was able to refine uranium up to 30% grade or even a higher and go into advanced preparations for 65% grade enrichment. Now the Iranians are well on the way to an 80%-90% weapons grade. The talk in Tehran about the need for nuclear-powered ships and submarines offered a fictitious pretext for crossing that threshold. Iran is not about to build those vessels or engines for lack of technology, materials and infrastructure. But nuclear-powered ships’ engines require the same highly-enriched uranium (90%) as bombs.
- Iran has launched a crash mega-fortification program for sheathing in steel and concrete nuclear facilities whose transfer to underground “immune zones” for escaping bombardment would be too costly, cumbersome and time consuming. If USrael leaves Iran alone to complete this project, they will have forfeited the opportunity of pre-empting Iran’s nuclear program, only inflicting partial and temporary damage at best.
- Obama is under very heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf oil states to waste no more time and destroy that program without further shilly-shallying.
- Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi tried to achieve that objective indirectly by massively backing the Syrian revolt against Tehran’s best friend Bashar Assad in the hope that his fall would stop the Iranians in their tracks. They never came close: Assad is still fighting tenaciously and his army is in intact after 17 months.
- Instead of capitulating to the odds against the Syrian ruler, Tehran increased its military stake in Assad’s battles. Without Iran’s lavish and timely air and ground supply corridors, the Syrian army would have long since run out of arms for defending the Assad regime against revolt. The Gulf governments are therefore forced to accept that their plans to weaken Iran by toppling Assad have backfired in more ways than one.
- Turkey and Iraq, each for its own reasons, are letting Iranian arms pass through their territories to Damascus, a move which is counter-productive to Gulf interests on the Middle East keyboard. Ankara, in particular, hosts rebel command centers and training camps with one hand, while, with the other, lets arms shipments through to Assad’s army for destroying those same rebels the moment the cross into Syria.
- UN, US and EU sanctions have failed to drive Tehran into giving up its nuclear program, as even the White House admitted on Aug 1, or slowed down its development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
- USraeli intelligence experts agree that Iran will be able to produce dirty bomb within three months, ready to hand out to the terrorist networks run by the Revolutionary Guards external clandestine arm, the Al Quds Brigades. They are designed for use in time of war against Israelis abroad and Americans in the Persian Gulf and Middle East. Israel fears the radioactive bombs will find their way to Tehran’s surrogates, the Lebanese Hizballah or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
- Those experts also agree that the Tehran-sponsored terrorist campaign against Israel has already begun. Launched by Hizballah or the Al Quds Brigades, it is expected to gain impetus. The Jul 18 attack in the Bulgarian town of Burgas, in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian were killed, is seen as the precursor of more attacks whose dimensions will expand in a way that forces Israel to retaliate.