The United States has acknowledged the existence of a fully-fledged military plan to attack Iran, significantly increasing tensions with Tehran before crucial nuclear negotiations next week.
Daniel Shapiro, Washington’s ambassador to Israel, warned the Iranian regime that only “a brief window” now existed to settle the impasse over its nuclear programme through talks.
Issuing one of the most candid assessments yet made by a senior American official, he assured Israel that, if diplomacy failed, the United States was fully prepared to resort to military force to end the threat that the Jewish state says it faces from a nuclear-armed Iran. “At a certain stage we are going to have to decide whether diplomacy isn’t going to work,” he told the Israeli Bar Association.
“It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure than the use of military force. But that doesn’t mean that option is not fully available – not just available, but it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.” American officials have tangentially referred to the existence of such plans, among them Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff until last year.
New cascades of centrifuges are being installed at Iran’s Fordo nuclear underground facility raising the total to 3,000 machines. All the 800 machines operating at present are devoted to the 20-percent refinement of uranium, a grade just short of bomb material. This was disclosed by Western diplomatic sources Thursday, May 17, at the same time as Washington sources reported that the Obama administration had consented to Iran producing low-grade 5-percent enriched uranium in their secret direct dialogue.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced earlier this year that Iran would soon have 3,000 centrifuges spinning at Fordo, one-third of its ultimate goal of 9,000. Already, Tehran has accumulated a stock of more than 110 kilograms of 20-percent uranium, enough to fuel several nuclear bombs. That stock will soon be doubled or tripled by expanded production.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that by installing new centrifuges in Fordo, Tehran is cynically mocking President Barack Obama who defined the main objectives of their back-channel dialogue as being to halt Iranian production of 20-percent enriched uranium and shut down nuclear activity at Fordo. Our Iranian sources claim Tehran never signed on to those goals. It was only tacitly understood between them that the status quo at Fordo would be maintained for the duration of talks.
In other words, Iran was permitted to continue enriching uranium not just to the 5-percent level but to 20-percent military grade in order to keep the dialogue afloat.
On the surface, it seems strange to believe that Mofaz, who as head of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee spoke out against an Israeli attack on Iran at this time, would join the government because of the Iranian threat.
Additionally, now that he has joined, it might have been tempting for the Obama administration, which has not made secret its misgivings over an Israeli military operation against Iran, to have believed that a new voice closer to its worldview was now in the Israeli government. The opposite appears to be the case.
Behind the scenes, the Iranian factor may have played the most dominant role in Mofaz’s decision to join the government, as well as Netanyahu’s invitation to him, and the gap between them over Iran may in fact be nonexistent.
The report claimed that during three crucial meetings held between Netanyahu and Mofaz prior to forming the new government, the two “discussed Iran at length,” and that Netanyahu sought understandings from Mofaz on whether he agreed with his policy on how to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The article cited a senior diplomatic source as saying that “Mofaz is of the same mind as Netanyahu” on the Iranian threat. Furthermore, Mofaz has been granted an influential post on the sensitive inner security cabinet, which monitors and discusses the Iranian threat on a regular basis, and which would be key to any decision on the matter.