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December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘uranium enrichment’

In the Short Run, Biden Might Well Keep his Promise that Iran Won’t Get Nukes

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

{Originally posted at author’s website, Liberty Unyielding}

It’s not just the promise, of course.  It’s the Bidenesque way he makes it:

Monday, Biden had to remind Israeli leaders that the U.S. is not seeking a negotiation with Iran at Israel’s expense.

“I have heard so much malarkey about our position on Iran,” Biden said. “We will not let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon, period. I would not put my 42-year reputation on the line if I were not certain when I say it. We mean it.”

Daniel Greenfield casts a doubt or two on that 42-year reputation, and that’s fair enough.  We would be fools to take seriously such assurances from Joe Biden.

But there are reasons why Iran may well delay that moment of focused provocation when the radical Islamic regime proves itself nuclear armed.  If the Iranians don’t have the means to offer that proof yet, they are very close to it – so close that it is now their choice how fast to move, and in what way.

Where we are

Iran now lacks only the public demonstration of uranium enrichment to a weapons-grade level (above 95%), and a detectable warhead detonation.  To talk of a “breakout” capacity – a bomb-in-waiting – as something we are still looking for is now misleading.  Using such terms suggests that there is something more we need to see from Iran, before we officially set the breakout watch.

But the reality is that there is nothing we have yet to see that we can reliably expect to see.  We’ve reached the point at which it is prudent to assume the breakout watch has already started – and imprudent not to.

Fifteen years ago, Iran did not have a reliable uranium enrichment process; did not have an industrial-scale infrastructure for enrichment; did not have a stockpile of enriched uranium; did not have her own uranium production capacity; did not have a detonator mechanism for a uranium warhead; did not have a missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead; and did not have anything close to an intercontinental missile capability.

As little as six years ago, moreover, the United States had more than enough ready combat power, between our Air Force and Navy, to quickly strike a meaningful blow against an Iranian nuclear infrastructure that was still comparatively rudimentary and geographically concentrated.

Both of those conditions have changed significantly.  Iran now does have all the things she lacked in 1999: enough low-enriched uranium for at least 7-8 warheads; a proven enrichment process, including enrichment to higher purity (19.75%); an industrial-scale infrastructure, with geographic dispersion; an indigenous uranium production capacity (see here and here); a tested detonator mechanism for a nuclear warhead; at least one medium-range ballistic missile series that could deliver a nuclear warhead; and a satellite/rocket program advanced enough to support ICBM testing in as little as 1-3 years.  Iran has acquired almost all of these things since UN sanctions were implemented in 2007, and under the regime of IAEA inspections.

Reminder: Nothing has interrupted the trend of Iran’s uranium enrichment. Red column shows low-enriched UF6 stockpiled (versus total cumulative enrichment in blue), once Iran began enriching some stock to 20% in Jan 2012. Although Iran has “downblended” her 20%-enriched stock, the rate of increase in the total stockpile of 5% LEU has been robust: 17% from 11/13 to 11/14. (Data source: IAEA)

Reminder: Nothing has interrupted the trend of Iran’s uranium enrichment. Red column shows low-enriched UF6 stockpiled (versus total cumulative enrichment in blue), once Iran began enriching some stock to 20% in Jan 2012. Although Iran has “downblended” her 20%-enriched stock, the rate of increase in the total stockpile of 5% LEU has been robust: 17% from 11/13 to 11/14. (Data source: IAEA)

American military power, in the meantime, has declined to such an extent that mounting a quick, comprehensive strike on the Iranian infrastructure is no longer feasible.  We couldn’t do it quickly.  Not only could we not do it quickly; we couldn’t do it without first restoring the readiness of military units we no longer keep at their highest readiness level.  It would take months to prepare for a comprehensive strike campaign – and would require the prior allocation of special funding from Congress.

Where Iran once wanted to be

Iran’s vision for the future has been shaped, as everyone’s has, by the consequences of the Arab Spring.  It has also been shaped by the withdrawal of American power under Obama.

Four or five years ago, Iran took as a given the U.S. posture in the larger Middle East.  That posture included a key strategic presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan; close partnerships with almost all the Gulf Cooperation Council nations; special relationships, including military cooperation, with both Egypt and Israel; and unchallenged supremacy on the regional seas.

Iran’s basic objective was to peel America’s partners away through the pressure of proxy insurgencies (and other underhanded tactics), and thus squeeze us out of the region.  The first-order purpose of having the bomb was to immunize Iran against retaliation in that process, as the USSR had immunized itself with a nuclear “deterrent” force when it worked through proxy conflicts in the Cold War.

Iran also set her sights on chokepoints in the regional waterways, from the Strait of Hormuz through the Red Sea and all the way to Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar.  No one was close to having a navy that could challenge the U.S. Navy, but even great navies are vulnerable in chokepoints.

At a kind of eschatological-strategic level, meanwhile, just as the Arab Spring was unfolding in early 2011, Iranian TV was running a mullah-approved “documentary” that outlined a scheme of military preparation for the arrival of the “twelfth imam.”  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad figured as a great military commander from Shia prophecy in this fantastical oeuvre, which depicted a dénouement in the armed conquest of Jerusalem.  (“Rescuing” Jerusalem had already figured for years in Iranian policy rhetoric, as well as in the concept of some major military exercises.)

Where Iran now wants to be

In the years since Obama took office, much has changed.  One thing hasn’t, and that’s Iran’s interest in gaining leverage at critical chokepoints in the regional seaways.  But some of the focused urgency has been bled out of the pressure campaign against America’s regional partners, in part because of the Arab Spring, and in part because Barack Obama has been doing an excellent job of peeling them away from us himself.

The momentum of Iran’s efforts has shifted to a new, more geographically focused vector, one that as recently as 2011 appeared to be unthinkable.  Where once Iran was confined to putting general pressure on various American partners in the region, and perhaps maneuvering to leapfrog nearby territory in which we seemed established – Iraq, Jordan, Israel – Iran can now realistically contemplate making an “internal” line of communication (LOC) through that territory.  She might accomplish that by proxy first, and then, eventually, exploit the LOC directly.

In fact, with much of the territory in question now disputed between ISIS and a weak Iraqi government, Iran has all the more reason for being there, with advisors and military equipment.

The bonus?  The U.S., weakened and compromised as our power is, has signed up to do at least some of the fighting against ISIS.  If Iran plays her cards right, American forces will open her strategic LOC through the heart of the Middle East for her.

Report: Iran Claims Israeli Drone Shot Down Near Natanz Nuclear Plant

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Iran claimed it shot down an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone on Sunday that it said was heading for the Natanz nuclear plant in the center of the country.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said in a statement the Israeli pilotless aircraft was a radar-evading, stealth drone whose mission was to spy on Iran’s uranium enrichment activities by flying over the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant.

The ‘Israeli hostile aircraft’ was targeted by a surface-to-air missile, according to the statement given to the state-run Fars News Agency (FNA) on Sunday evening.

“A pilotless Israeli spy plane was shot down after it was traced and intercepted by the IRGC Aerospace Force,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Public Relations Department announced.

“This mischievous attempt once again made the adventurous nature of the Zionist regime more evident and added another black page to the dark record of this fake and warmongering regime, which is full of crimes and wickedness,” the statement continued, adding it “reserves the right of reaction and retaliation for itself.”

The IRGC said its experts were “studying the information and intelligence” of those parts of the drone that were apparently still working. “We are now analyzing the information of this plane,” the IRGC said.

On July 14, 2014, Gaza terrorists sent an unmanned drone flying over Israeli territory. The IDF shot it down with a Patriot missile over the port city of Ashdod. It was the first time a Patriot missile had been launched at a target in Israel in 20 years.

Foggy Bottom Realizes ‘A Deal with Iran’ Is not a Deal

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

The State Dept. admitted on Tuesday that it doesn’t even know if and when the six-month interim deal with Iran will start amid contradicting interpretations by Iran and the United States on their agreement.

In a remarkably candid remark reflecting ignorance of “who is on first,” State Dept. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki answered a reporter’s question concerning when the interim period begins by stating, “That’s a good question.”

She tried to explain that it depends on “technical discussions at a working level so that we can essentially tee up the implementation of the agreement.”

That is “spokesmen’s language” for “we signed on the dotted line without making sure that both sides understood what was being signed.”

The ink was barely dry on the agreement when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave totally opposite answers on the matter of uranium enrichment and on the construction of the heavy water plant in Arak.

Kerry said on Sunday, “there is no right to enrich. We do not recognize a right to enrich. It is clear in the NPT, in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it’s very, very clear, that there is no right to enrich.”

Iran’s  government mouthpiece Press TV reported the same day , “Rouhani said the enrichment right of the Islamic Republic has been ‘explicitly’ stated in the deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.”

The White House stated that the agreement, or so-called agreement, stops progress on the heavy water reactor that could be used to produce plutonium for use in a nuclear weapon.

Not so, said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who gave his interpretation on the word “progress.”

“Capacity at the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there,” Zarif said in comments to the parliament and reported by Press TV.

It also quoted Rouhani as saying, “The Administration of Hope and Prudence seeks to create an atmosphere of trust between the Islamic Republic and countries that are interested in having friendly relations with this great nation.”

Now that the Obama administration knows the Islamic Republic is the “Administration of Hope and Prudence,” why doesn’t it know when the six-month clock starts ticking?

The answer to that question was published here, somewhat prophetically last week, in a Jewish Press blog that in essence states what the people in Foggy Bottom, and the foggy White House, have not learned: An agreement with Arabs, or in this case with Persians, is simply a basis for another argument.

But the Obama administration, being the nice and honest Americans that they are, are already keeping up their end of the deal by putting into place the easing of sanctions, even though Iran has not done anything except to say that Washington does not understand what it signed.

The last word can be given to former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said last year that the problem with the Obama administration is that it does not talk the same language as Iran.

Truer words never were spoken.

Rohani Demands ‘Right to Enrich Uranium’

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Iranian President Hassan Rohani Sunday unknowingly backed up a U.S. Congresswoman’s claim that he is full of deceit when he stated that the West must recognize Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium.

In a speech during Iran’s annual military parade on Sunday, Rohani declared that the West must accept “all the rights of the Iranian nation, especially the nuclear rights and uranium enrichment on Iranian territory in the framework of international rules.”

Der Spiegel, quoting anonymous intelligence officials, reported that Rohani is prepared to close down the Fordow uranium enrichment plant” with the probably demand that the United States and European Union return the favor by removing sanctions.

Last week, after the White House hinted that President Barack Obama might meet with Rohani at the United Nations next week, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, warned that “Rohani is a master of deceit who has been putting on an all-out charm offensive since he took office… and in many ways Rohani is much more dangerous than Ahmadinejad.”

She explained,” At least with Ahmadinejad you get what you see – his hatred for Israel and the United States is not disguised with rhetoric or spurious gestures of goodwill.

Russia Claims Iran Ready to Stop Enrichment of 20% uranium

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Russia says that Iran is ready to stop enriching 20 percent grade uranium, a key ingredient towards making a nuclear weapon, but Iran expects the West to lift economic sanctions in return.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not say exactly what Iranian officials agreed to this grand gesture, one day after Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rohani vowed that Iran will continue to enrich uranium. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu previously has warned that the only level of uranium enrichment that Iran should be allowed to produce is “zero percent.”

A higher grade of enrichment is a step closer to producing a nuclear weapon, but lower grade enrichment, needed for fuel roads in the Bushehr nuclear energy plant. Iran’s refusal to allow international inspectors into its nuclear facilities precludes the possibility of knowing how much 20 percent enriched uranium the country already has stockpiled.

“For the first time in many years, there are encouraging signs in the process of settlement of the situation with the Iranian nuclear program,” Lavrov said in the interview to Kuwait’s KUNA news agency. The interview was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s site but was not published in Iran.

Lavrov insisted that Iran’s preparedness to stop high-level enrichment of uranium “could become a breakthrough agreement.”

Then he dropped the joker in the deck: Iran’s grand gesture “implies significant reciprocal steps” by the six world powers who have unsuccessfully tried to convince Iran to cooperate with nuclear inspectors to stop its nuclear program.

“The international community must adequately respond to the constructive progress made by Iran, including gradual suspension and lifting of sanctions, both unilateral and those introduced by the UN Security Council. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity,” Lavrov concluded.

The next step is predictable. The West will demand some kind of evidence that Iran can speak for itself instead of letting Russia act as its mouthpiece.

Step Number Two will be Iran’s demand that sanctions be removed because, after all, how can it trust the West to inspect its nuclear facilities and then find a reason not lift sanctions?

Rohani won’t take office until August, so Iran still has several weeks to enrich more high-grade uranium.

After August, expect another few weeks, or months, of negotiating about how to negotiate an agreement.

By that time, maybe Iran will have enough high-grade uranium for a bomb.

World Powers Give Up on Iran Nuclear Talks

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers have collapsed.

Ashton said on Saturday that the two sides “remain far apart on substance,” after a second and, apparently, final day of negotiations in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there was no agreement further talks – neither a date nor a place have been set.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili admitted there were differences between the two sides. He reiterated Iran’s position that it has a right to enrich uranium, and complained that Tehran was not receiving recognition, as well as more concessions from world powers, before agreeing to curtail its uranium enrichment production. He also stated that the demands and the sanctions “are a sign of enmity towards the people of Iran.”

In the two days of meetings in Kazakhstan, the major powers had hoped to reach a compromise with Iran, whom they believe is engaged in a covert effort to produce nuclear bombs.

Delegates from the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany met with Iranian officials on proposals that would have allowed for exceptions to the international sanctions program against Iran, if the Iranians would shut down their nuclear facilities and turn over their stockpile of enriched uranium.

Earlier, a spokesman for Ashton urged Iran to take a “confidence-building step” and reassure the international community it is not engaged in a nuclear weapons program for military purposes.

Iran claims that its nuclear program has only peaceful purposes, namely power generation.

The United States attended the talks with the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council: Britain, France, Russia and China, as well as Germany.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/world-powers-give-up-on-iran-nuclear-talks/2013/04/06/

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