Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Iran & the bomb -- the predictions have been wrong for years

Crying wolf on Iran


Tel Aviv [is] orchestrating a campaign to portray Teheran as a regime hell-bent on starting a nuclear war in the volatile Middle East.

- Iran's Press TV, January 26, reporting that Russia and China continue to oppose sanctions



Only the mullahs know if Iran is "hell-bent" on starting a nuclear war. Jerusalem opposes Iran's quest for atomic weapons not only for what the regime might do, but because of what it is - religiously fanatical, violently autocratic and dangerously myopic.

Israelis worry about the rational decision-making capabilities of leaders imbued with apocalyptic visions; men who dementedly deny the destruction of six million Jews during the Shoah even as they cold-bloodedly promise to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

We take these threats at face value.

Israel opposes an Iranian bomb because from Lebanon and Gaza to Yemen and Afghanistan, Teheran is a destabilizing power. The mullahs have created a terror network that extends from the Middle East and Africa to South America. Nuclear weapons would make this belligerent clique even more dangerous, prodding Arab countries into seeking atomic weapons to counter Persian imperialism.

A REPORT in this week's Der Spiegel, evidently based on German intelligence sources, has ratcheted-up fears that Iran could "produce a primitive, truck-sized version of the bomb this year," and could deploy a nuclear warhead "sometime between 2012 and 2014."

These assessments were reportedly garnered by experts after analyzing a mysterious laptop smuggled out of Iran years ago; debriefings of Ali Reza Asgari, Iran's former deputy defense minister, who reportedly defected in 2007; and further debriefings of Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist, who may have defected during a pilgrimage to Mecca in June 2009. Der Spiegel also raised the possibility that Iran tested a detonating mechanism more than six years ago using non-nuclear materials.

Paradoxically, ongoing speculation about when Iran will go nuclear - often generated by leaks from parties whose agendas are not known - has done little to galvanize the international community toward blocking the mullahs.

In fact, the rampant speculation leaves an impression that intelligence agencies are clueless about Iran's true capabilities, while simultaneously implying that it's forever "too late" to stop Iran's inexorable lurch for the bomb.

THE Islamic Republic probably began pursuing a nuclear weapon in 1984 during its war with Iraq. By 1992, the CIA judged that Iran would have a bomb within eight years. In 1993, CIA director James Woolsey changed that to 8-10 years. In 1996, then-premier Shimon Peres said Iran would likely go nuclear in four years. The following year, MK Ephraim Sneh, who has strong ties to the defense establishment, reiterated that Israel had only a few years before time ran out on stopping a nuclear Iran.

In 2003, a Knesset committee was told Iran would have the materials needed to build a bomb by 2005. But in 2005, the Mossad forecast Iran would actually need a few more years. In 2006, IDF intelligence forecast Iran could go nuclear by 2010. Now there is credible speculation that Iran will soon be poised to put the finishing touches on a bomb but will stop just sort of manufacturing the actual devices.

The Doomsday Clock of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is now set at six minutes to midnight. Bizarrely, on January 14, the Bulletin adjusted its clock backwards, encouraged by what it said was the Obama administration's "pragmatic, problem-solving approach" toward Iran. We'd be surprised if the White House shared this rosy outlook.

Evidently, no one knows when "worse will come to worst" and the mullahs will declare they've got the bomb. Teheran's progress may have been delayed by clandestine intelligence operations. But where Iran is heading is disturbingly plain for all to see.

Yet with remarkable shortsightedness Russia and China are blocking UN sanctions. This leaves the US and principled European countries to go it alone. A moral minority could - for a start - block lines of credit to Iran's central bank and to banks that do business with it; target the corporate and personal assets of the Revolutionary Guard, and stop insuring tankers sailing to Iranian ports. And President Barack Obama could work more assiduously for regime change.

Iran is one of those cases where the wolf really is at the door... even if the boy cried prematurely.

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