As US president Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney prepared for their duel on foreign policy in Long Island, Tuesday night Oct. 16, Iran moved was on the move to present them with an accomplished fact: Its nuclear program's high-speed uranium enrichment plant has now been entirely sequestered in the fortified underground Fordo site near Qom, debkafile’s intelligence sources report.
On Iran, the differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney are significantly nuanced: Obama pledges not to let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon, i.e., build a bomb, whereas Romney promises to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear capability, i.e., attain the capacity for building one – a point which US intelligence believes will upon us in six months.
This estimate may not fully take into account Iran’s accelerating momentum. With the advanced IR-2 and IR-4 centrifuges, its enrichment plants can turn out more 20 percent enriched uranium at greater speed than ever before and so reach Iran's one-ton target before then.
Our sources disclose that, racing against time, Tehran managed to install the last four clusters of 174 centrifuges each inside in “Fordo’s B Chamber” shortly before European Union foreign ministers approved toughened sanctions in Brussels Monday, 15 Oct.
The 27-nation block tightened restrictions on Iran’s central bank, halted the import of natural gas and listed 30 firms and institutions as targets for asset freezes, including the National Iranian Oil Company exporter and the National Iranian Tanker Company.
Tuesday, Iran denounced the new European Union sanctions as “inhuman,” vowing they will not force any retreat on the country’s nuclear program.
The remarks by Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast underlined Iran’s insistence that it can ride out Western economic pressures. The new EU measures will not force Iran to surrender and back down from enriching uranium, he declared. “This sort of act will encourage the Iranian nation to continue on its way, strongly.”
This is in line with Tehran’s consistent response to every form of pressure, financial, economic, intelligence or military, which is to whip up its nuclear program for an extra spurt and leave no assault unanswered.
Saturday, Oct. 6, shortly after Fordo power lines were disabled by sabotage, causing small fires which damaged some centrifuges, Tehran sent Hizballah to launch a stealth drone over Israeli air space and beam back images of the Dimona nuclear reactor. Those images will soon be released. The lesson for the West was this: You may hit the Fordo power supply, but our arm is long enough to reach the Israeli reactor. And our payback for new European sanctions is faster centrifuges.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thanked the EU for the new sanctions at a reception Tuesday Oct. 16 for European envoys. “We’ll know they are achieving their goal when the centrifuges stop spinning,” he added.
He knew when he spoke that the sanctions had had the opposite effect. And like Obama and Romney, he knows what Iran plans next. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that the Iranians are preparing to change the “active formation” of the Fordo centrifuges and adapt them for refining uranium up to the 60 percent level, a short step before the weapons grade of 90 percent. The conversion is expected to be ready to go in the second half of December or early January, 2013.
US and Israeli intelligence experts on Iran recently arrived at a consensual assessment that Fordo was the only site capable of producing uranium enriched to the high 90 percent level.
Iran has therefore leapt across another red line in its steady advance toward a nuclear capability and is about to across its next.
Conscious that a moment of decision was at hand, British Prime Minister David Cameron Monday night informed Anglo-Jewish leaders that he had called Netanyahu to ask him not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities but allow more time for sanctions to have an impact.
Cameron was undoubtedly acting on a request from the White House in Washington.
But both the British and Israeli prime ministers haven’t forgotten that only a few weeks ago, Israel had marked with a red line a fully operational Fordo which had to be stopped before it was buried out of reach in “an immune zone.”
That line was crossed this week and still Israel has refrained from action.
What this means for Tehran is that, so long as Israel heeds the “advice” coming from Washington and London, and President Obama holds back from the “October surprise” proposed by one of his insiders, Tehran need not be afraid to go forward and start refining uranium up to 60 percent and, from there, all the way up to the manufacture of a nuclear bomb without hindrance.