Ostensible Slowdown (Extract)

Extract from an article in Issue 19, January 7, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. For full story please subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here to subscribe. Slowing Down the Sprint to the Iranian Bomb Even after publication of the controversial U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report, which said the Tehran regime had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, no one actually seriously doubts that Iran wishes to build an atom bomb. The only question relates to the issue of Tehran's preferred tactic: To move ahead at rapid, full-speed acceleration - which carries the risk of international sanctions and even maybe a preemptive military strike - or to proceed at a moderate pace, so as to reach the goal while paying the lowest possible price. The American assumption is that the Iranian military program - that is, the effort to develop the casing for an aerial bomb or a warhead for a ballistic missile - has been delayed by four years. Thus: assuming that this supposition is correct, it must be concluded that Iran is determined to produce significant amounts of weapons-grade enriched uranium that will provide it with the ability to decide when and how it will conduct its dash towards weaponization. Remember: obtaining the nuclear materials necessary for atomic weaponry is much more complicated technologically than designing the means of delivery. And the bottom line: Iran wants a reservoir of fissile material before it risks a crisis over the renewed implementation of its military program. The significance of this is that the leadership in Iran intends to get within touching distance to a bomb, and then to wait for the appropriate time to cross over the red line and join the nuclear club. This approach suits Iran perfectly. It allows it to avoid severe sanctions, having to deal only with the U.N. Security Council's "soft" measures. The approach avoids a conflict with the Arab Gulf states and enables Russian leader Vladimir Putin to finally give the go-ahead to complete construction of the nuclear reactor in Bushehr and to supply nuclear fuel rods for it. As long as Iran doesn't have a facility for the separation of plutonium - and no one is claiming that Iran is even dealing with this - Russia can argue that there is no danger that this reactor will give birth to a bomb. And, in fact, it could appear that in the abrasive internal debate taking place within the leadership of the Islamic Revolution there is great weight - perhaps even critical weight - given to those people, such as the former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who are calling for measured and flexible progress, in opposition to the provocative surge forward favored by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And that is why Ahmadinejad is speaking about Tehran's aspiration to produce 50,000 active centrifuges within four to five years, while still maintaining that there is no covert military plan. The attempt to jump to the production of a bomb casing from the 50,000 centrifuge-starting point is quite different from the current starting point, where Iran has only 3,000 centrifuges - which, by the way, are not providing the anticipated levels of enrichment. It is precisely this approach by Iran to slow down and perhaps to temporarily put its military plan on the back burner that proves how dangerous its intentions really are. Even the NIE determined that as the middle of the next decade approaches, Iran will be within range of developing the bomb. Israel has no doubt about the existence of two "basements" in the Iranian atomic plan, under the the facilities that were shown to U.N. Monitors: one "basement" of the military plan is already partially visible to Western intelligence services, namely the Lavisan facility near Tehran. The deeper "basement" is still only a supposition, based on a series of indicators, but has yet to be proved. Both of these "basements" will remain accessible to Iran, even if they have been frozen for the time being. And both - and Iran indirectly admits this - have been involved in planning the nuclear trigger, experiments in casting the bomb casing, and so forth. Extract from an article in Issue 19, January 7, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. For full story please subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here to subscribe.