Model of a fortified Iranian nuclear site
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 Israeli Mossad director Ephraim Halevi commented to the New York Times Thursday, 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:
1. While Saeed Jalili communed at leisure with Catherine Ashton in world capitals, uranium enrichment levels in Iran crept past 20 percent 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-percent grade or even a higher and go into advanced preparations for 65 percent grade enrichment. Now the Iranians are well on the way to an 80-90 percent 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 percent) as bombs.
2. 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 the US and Israel 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.
3. President Barack 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.
4. 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.
5. Instead of capitulating to the odds against the Syrian ruler, Tehran increased its military stake in Assad’s battles.