IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRESS REPORT
Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2011
For six months, global attention has fixed on the historic upheavals roiling the Arab world from Tunisia to Bahrain. But the biggest Middle Eastern story continues to be the steady progress Tehran has made toward acquiring the components of a deliverable nuclear weapon. The most recent news is disquieting, to say the least.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency “de-restricted” its most recent report on Iran’s nuclear progress. Despite hopes that the 2009 Stuxnet computer virus had slowed or even crippled Tehran’s efforts, the IAEA reports that in the last six months Tehran had enriched some 970 kilos of uranium to reactor-grade levels, or LEU, bringing its total stockpile of LEU to 4,105 kilos.
Iran has also enriched 56.7 kilos of uranium to a 20% level, ostensibly to produce medical isotopes but bringing it measurably closer to the 90% level needed for a bomb. Iran also announced that it will begin installing a more efficient type of centrifuge to enrich uranium at its once-secret facility near the city of Qom.
The IAEA devoted considerable space to what it calls the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program, noting that “there are indications that certain [undisclosed nuclear-related activities] may have continued beyond 2004.” This further discredits the flawed and politicized 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that suggested Iran had halted its nuclear weaponization efforts after 2003. The authors of that estimate, which undermined Western efforts to stop Iran, have a lot to answer for.
Iran’s suspected activities, says the IAEA, include “producing uranium metal…into components relevant to a nuclear device”; “multipoint explosive initiation and hemispherical detonation studies”; and “missile re-entry vehicle redesign activities for a new payload assessed as being nuclear in nature.”
Perhaps there’s an innocent explanation for all this, like Iran wanting to achieve technological independence in the manufacture of a new generation of refrigerators. And there will always be credulous Western reporters who will take Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s word that Iran’s intentions are peaceful.
We wonder what those reporters think of an article that appeared in April on the website of the regime’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and talks openly about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear test—a break from the usual Iranian policy of denying any interest in a bomb. “The day after [the] Islamic Republic of Iran’s first nuclear test will be an ordinary day for us Iranians but in the eyes of some of us there will be a new sparkle,” reads the article. The author goes on to imagine that “the strength of the explosion was not so great as to cause severe damage to the region nor so weak that Iranian scientists face any problems running their test.”
The day of that test may not be far off. In an analysis this month for the Non-proliferation Policy Education Center, Rand scholar Gregory S. Jones writes that even in the absence of a clandestine nuclear program, “Iran can now produce a weapon’s worth (20 kilograms) of HEU [weapons-grade uranium] any time it wishes. With Iran’s current number of operating centrifuges, the batch recycling process would take about two months.”
Rand later issued a press release saying that Mr. Jones’s analysis was not an official Rand study, which suggests to us how reluctant members of America’s foreign policy elite are to hear the truth about Iran’s ambitions. If we admit the danger, then we might have to do something about it before Iran becomes a nuclear power.
The Obama Administration has begun to take the nuclear threat from Iran more seriously after squandering a year in the fruitless pursuit of a negotiated settlement. The Administration also seems to have gotten wise to Iran’s efforts to shape this Arab Spring to its own purposes, not least by backing the Assad regime in its repression of Syrians and providing support to radicals in Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere.
Yet so far, neither American nor U.N. sanctions have been much of a brake on the mullahs’ nuclear pursuits. If President Obama is serious when he says a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable,” he’ll need to do more than arrange another round of sanctions and wag a stern finger at a regime that’s grown emboldened by the perception of American weakness.
RAND CORP: IRAN 8 WEEKS FROM THE BOMB
American Thinker, June 8, 2011
According to a RAND report, the United States and the world have blown the chance to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Half a year ago, U.S. air strikes and a no-fly zone might have prevented a nuclear bomb in the hands of the martyrdom ideology of Khomeinist Iran. That window has now slammed shut. In about 8 weeks, the RAND report concludes, Iran will have the nuclear material for its first bomb.
RAND Corporation’s Gregory S. Jones believes that Iran has produced almost 40 kilograms of uranium enriched near 20% percent. Jones suggests that air strikes can no longer stop Ahmadinejad’s rush to nuclear weapons. It appears that the Obama administration knowingly allowed the optimal window of opportunity against Iranian nuclear weapons to pass. As a result, the world has suddenly become immensely more dangerous.
The slogan “Death to Israel! Death to America!” has been chanted on a daily basis by mass meetings in Iran. It is sheer wishful thinking to believe that after 30 years of daily threats they don’t really mean it. The Obama Administration either believes there is no looming nuclear threat, or that it’s willing to live with it.…
Thirty years after Jimmy Carter allowed Iran to be conquered by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a proponent of martyrdom war to spread Shiite Islam, Iran has the means to strike countries it has threatened directly, including Saudi Arabia and Israel. Iran’s ballistic missile program, with major North Korean help, may be able to reach the United States by 2015. ICBMs only require a flight time of about half an hour.
It is likely that Saudi Arabia and possibly Egypt will import their own nuclear weapons from Pakistan, which is now rushing to build an advanced plant for uranium production. An American nuclear scientist who visited a North Korean centrifuge plant recently reported that the plant he saw was so advanced it could only have been built with Chinese help. North Korea therefore seems to have been working as a Chinese proxy to promote worldwide proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Iran is dominated by a martyrdom ideology. Ahmadinejad was likely involved in mass suicide charges in the Iran-Iraq war, in which boys wearing green plastic “Keys to Paradise” were ordered to drive their motorcycles into Saddam Hussein’s minefields. Ahmadinejad is thought to be a “Twelver,” a devout believer in the Shiite Mahdi (messiah), who will bring Armageddon to infidels and victory to an extremist sect of Shi’ism.
No nuclear war has occurred in the last sixty years since Stalin’s (stolen) atom bomb explosion. Rational nations do not commit suicide. The Iranian Twelver regime is the first openly suicide-promoting regime since the Japanese Imperial cult of World War II. Ahmadinejad is a religious fanatic who claims to have direct conversations with Allah and the Twelfth Imam, a claim that has led to internal struggles between Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard factions. Khamenei recently arrested Ahmadinejad supporters accusing them of practicing witchcraft against the dominance of the religious elite.…
The world has had 30 years to prepare for this moment. Only the United States has the military power to knock down Iran’s nuclear industry and impose a no-fly zone that will keep Iranian missiles and aircraft from being launched. Israel is motivated to do it, but cannot sustain a long air campaign.…
Dr. Jones’ eight-week estimate for the first Iranian Bomb may be off by weeks or months. Nobody can doubt that we will be facing a nuclear Iran some time soon. George W. Bush was mercilessly mocked for launching a preemptive war against Saddam Hussein because Bush did not want to take the risk that Saddam might have WMD’s. It now appears that Obama has failed to preempt Iran’s nuclear breakout. We will therefore have an opportunity soon to find out what happens when the United States does not try prevent rogue regimes from getting nukes.
IRAN TO TEST FIRST NUCLEAR BOMB BY 2012?
Pajamas Media, June 9, 2011
According to sources in the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered them to proceed immediately with the completion of the Iranian atomic bomb project, including testing and arming of missiles with nuclear payload.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s decision is based on a belief by the Islamic regime’s strategists that both America and Israel lack the courage and the ability to dismantle the Iranian nuclear facilities. The Iranian regime believes that America and Israel fear Iran’s retaliation, and that it has had them frozen in place and confused as to what action to take next. They have concluded that this presents a great opportunity for the Iranian regime to become a nuclear-armed state without any interference from the outside.
Khamenei offered the same message on June 1 at the Imam Hussein Military Academy: “The Great Satan, since the early days of the Revolution, has mobilized its military, financial, propaganda, and political empire to defeat the Islamic Revolution and the Iranian nation, but the political realities in Iran and the region show that the U.S. has been brought to its knees by the Islamic Revolution.”
He further stated that the failure of the U.S. policies in the Middle East and the promising revival of Islam in the region are the realization of the divine promises to the Iranian nation—and that the recent events herald the realization of God’s promise that Islam and the Muslims will ultimately triumph.
The authorization for nuclear weapons by the supreme leader has been followed by the recent announcement by the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Fereidoon Abbasi, that Iran will start the installation of more advanced centrifuges at the previously secret site, the Fordo plant near the city of Qom. He also said that this will triple Iran’s production of 20 percent enriched uranium.
A chilling article titled “The Next Day after the Iranian Nuclear Bomb Test Will be a Normal Day” recently appeared on an Iranian website, Gerdab.ir, which is run by the Revolutionary Guards. This is the first time that an outlet belonging to the Iranian government openly talked about a nuclear bomb—Iran has insisted repeatedly that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The commentary states that after the Iranian nuclear bomb test, everyone will be able to go about their business as usual. The explosion will not be so strong as to bring destruction to the neighboring areas, though not so weak that the Iranian scientists have difficulties with their test. But it will be a day for Iranians to be filled with pride. The article even predicts playfully how Western media will cover the event.
Most chilling is how the article ends with a quote from the Quran (Al Enfal 60): “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah.…”
America and its European allies have continuously tried to change the behavior of the regime with incentives and negotiations. The Iranian leaders refused every time to accept any offer, buying time in order to get to the point of no return. The jihadists in Iran will have their nuclear bomb, and we have only ourselves to blame.
IRAN’S SYRIA STRATEGY: HEAVY MEDDLE
Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2011
Mohsen Chizari gets around.
A top commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Chizari was hit with sanctions last week by the Obama administration. Given his nationality, one might assume that he was sanctioned in relation to the Iranian regime’s nuclear pursuits or its crackdown on dissidents. In fact, Chizari, the Quds Force Chief Qasem Soleimani, and the organization itself were targeted for abetting oppression somewhere else: Syria.
According to the U.S. government, the Iranians are complicit in the Assad regime’s “human rights abuses and repression of the Syrian people.”
If Chizari’s name sounds familiar, it may be because he was arrested by U.S. troops in Baghdad in December 2006. According to media reports, Chizari was detained while inside the compound of Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim with another Quds Force commander. The two men were reportedly in possession of detailed reports about weapons shipments into Iraq, including of so-called explosively formed projectiles, which were responsible for the deaths of scores of U.S. soldiers. Chizari was subsequently expelled into Iran by the Iraqi government.
It should come as little surprise that Chizari has shown up in both hot spots. Wherever there’s trouble, he’ll be there to aid the troublemakers or stir things up himself.
The Quds Force reports directly to Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and it serves as the linchpin in Iran’s regional strategy. Iran funds and arms groups like Hezbollah to threaten Israel and thwart democracy-building in Lebanon. And it equips terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan to stymie U.S. efforts to establish peace and security in those places. In all of these cases, the Quds Force is the regime’s instrument of choice.
Iran’s leaders crowed when popular uprisings unseated their old foes Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. But the travails of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad have clearly caused concern in Tehran. Assad is a long-time ally of Iran, and under his rule Syria has served as a conduit eastward for foreign fighters to enter Iraq to fight U.S. troops, and for Iranian weaponry to flow westward to arm Hezbollah and Hamas. Damascus is essentially the bar scene from “Star Wars” for terrorists in the Middle East, providing a locale where Iranian allies such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad can coordinate unperturbed.
Were Assad to fall, a key link in Iran’s strategic chain across the region would be broken. While Iran could possibly find work-arounds to supply Hezbollah, such as by sea or air, it would lose both strategic depth and an eager ally. Furthermore, if protesters in Syria were to inspire Iran’s own democracy activists to redouble their efforts, the Iranian regime would find itself in serious peril. Thus it is unsurprising that it has dispatched the Quds Force to help Assad stop the Arab Spring at his doorstep.
Iran’s latest involvement in Syria should be a wake-up call. Iran’s direct assistance in the Syrian regime’s crackdown has attracted criticism from many quarters; it’s even put Tehran at odds with erstwhile allies such as Turkey. Iran’s actions have also contributed to a shift in the Obama administration’s approach toward Tehran. In addition to imposing sanctions on Chizari and his ilk, on April 22 President Obama said that Assad was mimicking Iran’s “brutal tactics.”
Ultimately, tough words and sanctions will not be enough. Chizari and his exploits in Iraq and Syria represent one facet of the threat posed by Iran. If our hopes for freedom and stability in the region are to be realized, we must defeat Iran’s efforts to expand its power and influence—above all by denying it the nuclear weapons that would further its destabilizing designs.
(Mr. Singh is the managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
He was senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council
during the George W. Bush administration.)
Jerusalem Post, June 17, 2011
While on assignment in Astana, Kazakhstan, Herb Keinon, [the Jerusalem Post’s] diplomatic correspondent, had the harrowing experience of attending a conference of heads of state that featured as an honored guest-speaker a man “who, if he just could, would love to incinerate me and mine and all that is dear to me.”
Particularly discomfiting for Keinon was the fact that the man, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was received with a remarkable equanimity as he spouted his vicious verbal abuse of Israel, the U.S. and the West. His statement to the effect that 60 plus years of Zionism has brought only humiliation and destruction to the Palestinians and the region evoked no more of a response than his harangue blaming the US and the West for, among other things, 9/11, which, he said, was the pretext for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The forum of heads of state—known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization—was hardly a global leadership gathering. Representatives of countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were in attendance. But so were international heavyweights such as Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who both sat impassively as Ahmadinejad ranted.
The outrage in Astana is a minor precursor to the really big show, which has been repeating itself annually since Ahmadinejad was first elected president in 2005. Come September, the head of the Islamic Republic will likely attend—and address—the UN General Assembly in New York. If he hasn’t already, Ahmadinejad will soon apply for a U.S. visa.
Though the U.S. should in principle deny Ahmadinejad entry to a country which he devotes so much of his time in public appearances to disparaging…it is highly unlikely that this will happen, just as it has not happened in the past. Under its treaty with the UN, the U.S. must grant heads of UN member states entry to attend UN assemblies. And Iran is a member state.
If justice reigned in the UN, Iran’s violation of a UN Security Council declaration that demands a halt to the country’s nuclear program, or its president’s outspoken Holocaust denial, a violation of a UN General Assembly resolution dating back to January 2007, would be reason enough too for special censure. Ahmadinejad’s public declarations to “wipe Israel off the map,” combined with his push for nuclear capability and Holocaust denial, produce a truly frightening result.
Here is a country whose leadership has rejected the lessons of the Holocaust and openly incites genocide of the Jewish people living in Israel while actively seeking the means to perpetrate such a genocide. Instead of being allowed to traipse around the world attending respectable conferences and forums and being received with honor, Ahmadinejad should be arrested.
As former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler has pointed out, Ahmadinejad is in clear breach of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. International legislation passed in December 1948 in the shadow of the Holocaust, the convention was designed precisely to prevent the repeat of the kind of mass-murder that was carried out against the Jewish people during World War II, which Iran’s president has publicly encouraged. “Persons committing this crime shall be punished,” states the convention, “whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”
None of this is likely to happen. However, unlike the equanimity with which Ahmadinejad was received in Astana this week by the presidents of China and Russia, Western countries that have maintained their moral bearings can be counted on to stage a major walk-out should Ahmadinejad address this September’s General Assembly.
Last year, when the Iranian president claimed during his annual speech to the assembly that the U.S. government had “orchestrated” 9/11, representatives from the U.S. and the EU’s 27 member-states left the hall. A similar walk-out was staged by British and EU officials in April 2009 at a UN summit against racism in Geneva dubbed “Durban II” during Ahmadinejad’s speech there.
Representatives from the U.S., Israel, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had boycotted the entire conference, which attempted, like the 2001 Durban I summit, to single out Israel and equate Zionism with racism.
These walk-outs, which contrast so sharply with the indifference that rightly appalled Keinon, are essential if basic moral distinctions are to be made between good and evil. The moral lesson taught by German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis for plotting to assassinate Hitler, is no less relevant today. Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.