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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘nuclear’

‘Moderate’ Rouhani Misled West, Sneaked in Centrifuges?

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

There is a particularly interesting aspect to the video that has recently surfaced, in which Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, gloats over Iran’s success in coopting European negotiators to keep the Iranian nuclear program on track in the mid-2000s, in spite of pressure from the United States.

The video clip, from an Iranian news-program interview of Rouhani in Farsi, was published by Reza Khalili.  Ryan Mauro highlights it at the Clarion Project, tying it to a report from 31 July in which Mauro outlined Rouhani’s extensive history of using deception about the Iranian nuclear program back when he was the chief nuclear negotiator for Tehran.

The deception and Rouhani’s gloating are important (see especially his characterization of the top-cover he received from European negotiators); I will let readers visit the reports and soak in the information at your leisure.  What I want to focus on here is the timeline Rouhani refers to in the video.  If he is telling the truth – and there is no obvious reason why he would lie about the timing he refers to – the timeline he outlines for bringing Iranian centrifuge cascades online in substantial numbers makes a poignant contrast with the reporting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the time.

The contrast highlights just how in the dark IAEA was during this period, at least about the centrifuges.  (It’s also worth highlighting, in general, the timeline of what was going on during the EU-brokered negotiations Rouhani refers to in the video.)  Certainly, many in the West had an uneasy suspicion that, by the end of 2005, Iran may have accomplished more than IAEA was officially aware of.  But, as late as February 2006, IAEA acknowledged the following decisive condition:

Due to the fact that no centrifuge related raw materials and components are under Agency seal, the Agency is unable effectively to monitor the R&D activities being carried out by Iran except at the [Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant],* where containment and surveillance measures are being applied to the enrichment process.

Rouhani’s timeline

The full timeline from the video develops as follows.  Rouhani summarizes it between the time hacks of 3:45 and 4:30.  His overall allusion is to the period from October 2003 to August 2005, when he was the chief negotiator for the Iranian nuclear program.

His initial discussion of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr contains no surprises; it is couched in the following terms:

- First phase of Bushehr project completed – Beginning of 2004

- Next phase completed – Fall of 2004

These references are presumably to Russia’s completion of facility construction, which was noted at the time in Western reporting.

- Project completed – March 2005

This is probably a reference to an agreement between Russia and Iran, concluded in February 2005, under which Moscow would supply the enriched-uranium fuel for the light-water reactor at Bushehr.  (See here as well for a summary from 2006 alluding to the 2005 agreement.)

iran-nuc-facs

So far, so good.  Next, Rouhani speaks of the heavy-water reactor, or the plutonium reactor at Arak.

- “Production” started at the heavy-water plant – Summer of 2004

Construction of the reactor was begun in June of 2004, but Rouhani here appears to be referring to the heavy-water production plant (HWPP), a particular component of the Arak reactor system, which reportedly began operation (i.e., the production of heavy water) in November 2004.

In this walk back through the Iranian nuclear program, it is worth recalling what the official line was about Arak at the time, in the big middle of the EU-3 talks with Iran:

Iran has started building a research reactor that could eventually produce enough plutonium for one bomb per year, ignoring calls to scrap the project, diplomats close to the United Nations said on Thursday. …

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran had created a “confidence deficit” by concealing parts of its atomic program for nearly two decades and urged Tehran to improve its transparency and cooperation with U.N. inspectors. A concluding statement from this week’s IAEA governing board meeting said the 35 members unanimously said it was “essential that Iran provide full transparency and extend proactive cooperation to the agency.” …

Israeli Source: Obama No Longer Committed to Iran Attack Option

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

A senior Israeli government official has told Kol Israel this morning that he doubts the Obama Administration’s commitment to prevent Iran “at any cost” from attainting a nuclear weapon.

The official explained that the Administration’s behavior in Syria, in complete contradiction of President Obama’s declarations, shows Israel that it cannot rely on American promises.

The senior official added that Israel could execute a strike against Iran without American operational support, but such an attack would be less effective than an American operation.

Israel is extremely concerned that the U.S. might be seeking direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran, leading to easing the sanctions against Iran in return for Iranian concessions that would fall short of Israel’s demands.

It’s likely that the high level official’s statement is an expression of the Netanyahu government’s anxiety over the glee with which the Obama Administration has welcomed the election of a new Iranian president. A White House statement following the inauguration of President Hasan Rouhani Sunday read:

“We congratulate the Iranian people for making their voices heard during the election. We note that President Rouhani recognized that his election represented a call by the Iranian people for change, and we hope that the new Iranian Government will heed the will of the voters by making choices that will lead to a better life for the Iranian people. We do believe that his inauguration presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. And, as we’ve said all along, should the new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations, we are ready to talk to them when they are ready to do so.”

Direct talks, as suggested by the White House statement, always begin with “confidence building measures,” and the Netanyahu government must be worried that it would be picking up the tab on the new couple’s honeymoon.

In the State Dept. daily press briefing yesterday, Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf was asked: “The Israeli Government said over the weekend it does not trust Rouhani because of statements which they say indicate, again, an existential threat to Israel’s existence. Is the U.S. taking that concern under consideration when it looks at how it might want to engage with Rouhani?”

Harf answered that the U.S. will take “the whole range of security concerns, the security problems Iran has presented for the region into account,” when it decides how to deal with the new Iranian Government. She reiterated that it’s important “to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon because of the threat they could pose to Israel, to the region, and indeed to us as well.” But, finally, hope sprang eternal, and Harf acknowledged that the U.S. is “waiting to talk to them when they are ready to engage substantively.” Meaning – one on one.

Harf was next asked “What’s the first step that you would want to see Rouhani take on the nuclear issue?”

“We have a proposal on the table,” she said. “We’ve had it on the table for some time and we’re waiting for a substantive response from the Iranian side on how to move forward. And we’ve been clear that that’s what needs to happen next.”

All of which suggests that the Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei has played a brilliant game in picking his new “moderate” president.

Khamenei made Rouhani chief of Iran’s nuclear negotiations in 2003, for the same reason he made him president this time around – the man can talk a candy out of the western babies’ hands. Rouhani ran the negotiations between Iran and three European states in Tehran and continued later in Brussels, Geneva and Paris.

Rouhani’s team back then was described as “the best diplomats in the Iranian Foreign Ministry.” They prevented further escalation of accusations against Iran, and so prevented Iran’s nuclear case from going to the UN Security Council. They figured out how to temporarily suspend parts of Iran’s nuclear activities to appease the West.

And so, while building confidence, insisting on Iran’s rights, reducing international pressures and the possibility of war, and preventing Iran’s case from being reported to the UN Security Council, Iran succeeded in completing its nuclear fuel cycle and took groundbreaking steps to produce a nuclear weapon.

Monsour Backtracks: ElBaradei Not Appointed PM

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Interim Egyptian President Adly Monsour backtracked on Saturday night, and said that ElBaradei was not appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt, following the military coup that deposed the democratically elected Muslim Bortherhood leader Mohammed Morsi.

The appointment was opposed by the strict Islamic party Salafi al-Nour, and the newly appointed Eyptian president apparently decided to not oppose them.

There have been violent clashes in the streets of Cairo between supporters and opponents of Morsi and the revolutionaries.

 

 

Iran Says It Will Build New Nuclear Reactor

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Iran’s state-controlled media announced it will build a new nu clear “research center” for the production of medical isotopes.

The new reactor is to be built approximately 420 miles south of Tehran and  will supplement Iran’s Bushehr reactor.

Iran Launches Two Uranium Facilities while Talking with West

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated two uranium processing facilities on Tuesday at the same Western diplomats are trying to jawbone him into surrendering work on uranium enrichment.

Marking “National Day of Nuclear Technology,” Ahmadinejad, via video, launched the production plants in the central province of Yazd.

Two days earlier, European Union Policy Chief Catherine Ashton admitted that Iran and the six world powers “remain far apart” from advancing in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.

Western diplomats stubbornly insist it is worthwhile to continue talks with Iran, with one diplomat, speaking anonymously, going so far as to state, “There is enough substance for these negotiations to continue.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Israel on Sunday, negotiations cannot continue forever, but, as usual, no deadline was stated. nor is it clear what the United States would do if a deadline were not met.

Meanwhile, more concerns have been raised supporting Israel’s years-old contention that Iran has been actively working towards producing a nuclear weapon.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a nuclear nonproliferation in Washington that Iran’s refusal to allow nuclear inspectors into the Parchin military base raised serious suspicions.  “We have credible information that Iran continued its activities beyond 2003,” he said. American intelligence previously has claimed that Iran suspended work on nuclear development in that year, while Israel insisted no such halt occurred.

Pentagon Asking Congress to Sell Israel 1,725 Bunker Busters

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has notified Congress that it intends to sell Israel some 6,900 tail kits which can turn “dumb” bombs into satellite-guided “smart bombs,” including bombs capable of penetrating hardened targets, Bloomberg Business Week reported.

Some of the hardened targets one would immediately think about are those underground nuclear plants the Iranian government has been so chatty about this past decade or so.

According to BBW, the sale will includes 1,725 all-weather satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM tail kits with BLU-109 bombs, which are 2,000-pound, hard-target penetrators.

Bombs delivered this way are among the most precise weapons in the U.S. and Israeli arsenal. They can be dropped by F-15 and F-16 fighter jets.

The BLU-109 is a so-called bunker buster, designed to “defeat an enemy’s most critical and hardened targets,” such as protected weapons storage sites, and penetrate as much as six feet of reinforced concrete, according to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet.

The BLU-109 has a steel casing about 1 inch thick, filled with 530 lb of Tritonal. It has a delayed-action tail-fuse.

The sale will replenish Israel’s inventory after the attacks on Arab terrorist enclaves in Gaza last month. During Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, Israeli forces carried out more than 1,000 attacks in Gaza

According to equities.com, the Government of Israel has requested a sale of 6,900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits (which include 3,450 JDAM Anti-Jam KMU-556 (GBU-31) for MK-84 warheads; 1,725 KMU-557 (GBU-31) for BLU-109 warheads and 1,725 KMU-572 (GBU-38) for MK-82 warheads); 3,450 MK-84 2000 lb General Purpose Bombs; 1,725 MK-82 500 lb General Purpose Bombs; 1,725 BLU-109 Bombs; 3,450 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs; 11,500 FMU-139 Fuses; 11,500 FMU-143 Fuses; and 11,500 FMU-152 Fuses.

Also included are spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and technical support, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $647 million.

Worth every penny.

According to the Pentagon, the proposed sale of munitions will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

That’s good.

For Israel, What Next In The Matter Of Iran? (2 of 3)

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Steadily, Israel is strengthening its plans for ballistic missile defense, most visibly on the Arrow system and also on Iron Dome, a lower-altitude interceptor that is designed to guard against shorter-range rocket attacks from Lebanon and Gaza.

Unavoidably, these defensive systems, including certain others, which are still in the development phase, would have leakage. Because system penetration by even a single enemy missile carrying a nuclear warhead could, by definition, be intolerable, their principal benefit would not lie in supplying added physical protection for Israeli populations. Instead, this still-considerable benefit would have to lie elsewhere – that is, in critical enhancements of Israeli nuclear deterrence.

If still rational, a newly nuclear Iran would require incrementally increasing numbers of offensive missiles. This would be needed to achieve or to maintain a sufficiently destructive first-strike capability against Israel. There could come a time, however, when Iran would become able to deploy substantially more than a small number of nuclear-tipped missiles. Should that happen, all of Israel’s active defenses, already inadequate as ultimate guarantors of physical protection, could cease functioning as critically supportive adjuncts to Israeli nuclear deterrence.

In the case of anticipated Iranian decisional “madness,” a still timely preemption against Iran, even if at very great cost and risk to Israel, could prove indispensable. Yet, at least in itself, this plainly destabilizing scenario is insufficiently plausible to warrant defensive first strikes. Israel would be better served by a bifurcated or two-pronged plan for successful deterrence. Here, one “prong” would be designed for an expectedly rational Iranian adversary, the other for a presumptively irrational one.

In broadest policy contours, we already know what Israel would need to do in order to maintain a stable deterrence posture vis-à-vis a newly nuclear Iran. But what if the leaders of such an adversary did not meet the characteristic expectations of rational behavior in world politics? In short, what if this leadership, from the very start or perhaps more slowly over time, chose not to consistently value Iran’s national survival as a state more highly than any other preference, or combination of preferences?

In such acutely threatening circumstances, Israel’s leaders would need to look closely at two eccentric and more-or-less untried nuclear deterrence strategies, possibly even in tandem with one another. First, these leaders would have to understand that even an irrational Iranian leadership could display distinct preferences, and associated hierarchies or rank-orderings of preferences. Their task, then, would be to determine precisely what these particular preferences might be (most likely, they would have to do with certain presumed religious goals), and, also, how these preferences are apt to be ranked in Tehran.

Second, Israel’s leaders would have to determine, among other things, the likely deterrence benefits of pretended irrationality. An irrational Iranian enemy, if it felt Israel’s decision-makers were irrational themselves, could be determinedly less likely to strike first. Years ago, General Moshe Dayan, then Israel’s minister of defense, declared: “Israel must be seen as a mad dog; too dangerous to bother.” With this warning, Dayan revealed an intuitive awareness of the possible long-term benefits, to Israel, of feigned irrationality.

Of course, pretending irrationality could also be a double-edged sword, frightening the Iranian side to a point where it might actually feel more compelled to strike first itself. This risk of unwittingly encouraging enemy aggression could apply as well to an Iranian adversary that had been deemed rational. In this connection, it is worth noting, Israel could apply the tactic of pretended irrationality to a presumptively rational Iranian leadership, as well as to an expectedly irrational one.

On analytic balance, it may even be more purposeful for Israel to use this tactic in those cases where Iran had first been judged to be rational.

The dialectics of such multi-factorial calculations are enormously complex, and also potentially bewildering. Still, they must be studied and worked through meticulously, and by all seriously concerned strategists and decision-makers. For Israel, there is no rational alternative.

There is, however, a relevant prior point. Before Israel’s leaders could proceed gainfully with any plans for deterring an irrational Iranian nuclear adversary, they would first need to be convinced that this adversary was, in fact, genuinely irrational, and not simply pretending irrationality.

The importance of an early sequencing for this vital judgment cannot be overstated. Because all specific Israeli deterrence policies must be founded upon the presumed rationality or irrationality of prospective nuclear enemies, accurately determining precise enemy preferences and preference-orderings will have to become the very first core phase of strategic planning in Tel Aviv.

For Israel, What Next In The Matter Of Iran? (First of Three Parts)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Israel’s final decision concerning what to do about a nuclear Iran will depend on answers to certain core psychological questions. Is the Iranian adversary rational, valuing national survival more highly than any other preference, or combination of preferences? Or, on even a single occasion, is this enemy more apt to prove itself irrational, thereby choosing to value certain preferences more highly than the country’s indispensable physical security?

It is also possible that authoritative Iranian decision-makers could be neither rational or irrational but mad. In such unlikely, but especially daunting, circumstances, deterrence would no longer serve any conceivable Israeli strategic purpose. At that point, Jerusalem’s only effectively remaining policy choice would be: (1) to hope for regime change in Tehran, but otherwise passively await Israel’s destruction, or (2) to strike first itself, preemptively, whatever the global outcry, and irrespective of the shattering military consequences.

These are not frivolous or contrived descriptions of presumed Iranian leadership orientations. To be sure, the resultant wisdom of any considered Israeli preemption will ultimately depend on choosing correctly, and on reliably anticipating Iranian judgments over an extended period of time. For genuine safety, Israel must prepare to make decisions that are subtle, nuanced, and of protracted utility.

This is not the time to confuse conventional meanings with strategic precision. Even an irrational Iranian leadership could maintain a distinct and determinable hierarchy of preferences. Unlike trying to influence a “mad” leadership, therefore, it could still be purposeful for Israel to attempt deterrence of such a “merely” irrational adversary.

More than likely, Iran is not a mad or crazy state. Though it is true, at least doctrinally, that Iran’s political and clerical leaders could sometime decide to welcome the Shiite apocalypse, and even its associated destructions, these enemy decision-makers might still remain subject to certain different sorts of deterrent threats.

Faced with such extraordinary circumstances, conditions under which an already nuclear Iran could not be effectively prevented from striking first by threatening the usual harms of retaliatory destruction, Israel would need to identify, in advance, less orthodox but still promising, forms of reprisal.

Such eccentric kinds of reprisal would inevitably center upon those preeminent religious preferences and institutions that remain most indisputably sacred to Shiite Iran.

For Israel, facing a rational adversary would undoubtedly be best. A presumably rational leadership in Tehran would make it significantly easier for Jerusalem to reasonably forego the preemption option. In these more predictable circumstances, Iran could still be reliably deterred by some or all of the standard military threats available to states, credible warnings that are conspicuously linked to “assured destruction.”

But it is not for Israel to choose the preferred degree of enemy rationality.

Unless there is an eleventh-hour defensive first strike by Israel – a now improbable attack that would most likely follow an authoritative determination of actual or prospective Iranian “madness” – a new nuclear adversary in the region will make its appearance. For Israel, this portentous development would then mandate a prudent and well thought out plan for coexistence. Then, in other words, Israel would have to learn to “live with” a nuclear Iran.

There would be no reasonable alternative.

And it would be a complex and problematic education. Forging such a requisite policy of nuclear deterrence would require, among other things, (1) reduced ambiguity about particular elements of Israel’s strategic forces; (2) enhanced and partially disclosed nuclear targeting options; (3) substantial and partially revealed programs for improved active defenses; (4) certain recognizable steps to ensure the perceived survivability of its nuclear retaliatory forces, including more or less explicit references to Israeli sea-basing of such forces; (5) further expansion of preparations for both cyber-defense and cyber-war; and, in order to bring together all of these complex and intersecting enhancements in a coherent mission plan, and (6) a comprehensive strategic doctrine.

Additionally, because of the residual but serious prospect of Iranian irrationality – not madness – Israel’s military planners will have to identify suitable ways of ensuring that even a nuclear “suicide state” could be deterred. Such a uniquely perilous threat could actually be very small, but, if considered together with Iran’s Shiite eschatology, it might still not be negligible.

Further, while the expected probability of having to face such an irrational enemy state could be very low, the expected disutility or anticipated harm of any single deterrence failure could be flat out unacceptable.

(Continued Next Week)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/for-israel-what-next-in-the-matter-of-iran-first-of-three-parts/2012/11/28/

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