debkafile Reports: Iran exploits Pakistan turmoil for nuclear and diplomatic momentum – with no fear of sanctions
While world attention was fixed on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in the turbulence following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on Dec. 27, Iran went on developing its nuclear arms program undisturbed and with no sanctions on the horizon.
Two days after Iran received its second shipment of enriched uranium from Russian to fuel the still unfinished Bushehr reactor, Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki Monday, Dec. 31, landed a new bombshell: Iran’s first nuclear reactor would be launched in mid-2008 – six months before Moscow’s end-of-year timeline.
Iran would also continue its domestic enrichment program, he said, to power another 20 nuclear plants with a capacity of 20,000 megawatts of electricity.
Iran has begun construction of its second atomic reactor, a 360-megawatt plant, in the southern oil-region of Khuzestan.
Western military experts estimate that these power stations would give Iran another enriched uranium source for building nuclear bombs and warheads.
debkafile‘s Iranian sources report that Tehran is opportunistically exploiting the sound and fury in Islamabad, for a regional diplomatic offensive.
There is plenty of grist for its mill.
The US National Intelligence Estimate absolving Iran of nuclear weapons production, published 24 days earlier, opened the floodgates to a swarm of foreign emissaries anxious to profit from the reconciliation process afoot between Washington and Tehran. Economic delegations have flown in from Japan, Germany, Russia and the Gulf, while Moscow also sent a large military delegation.
Focusing its diplomatic offensive on the largest Arab nation, Tehran’s former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has spent 10 days in Cairo laying the ground for the resumption of relations, a major step 28 years after they were severed by the 1979 Islamic revolutionaries in Tehran. He is working a broad range of economic and nuclear ties. The next visitor to Cairo will be Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel.
The Egyptians honored their Iranian visitor with the presidential aircraft placed at his disposal for trips across the country. Larijani arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh shortly after Israeli defense minister Ehud Bark left.
Sunday, Dec. 30, he announced Iran’s offer of assistance in developing Egypt’s nuclear program. Tehran is already in secret negotiation with an agency representing the Gulf Cooperation Council on nuclear collaboration including a joint uranium enrichment project. debkafile‘s sources report that any deal they reach may well cover Egyptian participation as well.
Iranian officials’ comings and goings are building up with US president George W. Bush’s Middle East tour just a week away. In Cairo, he can already expect to find a complicated new relations structure in the making between Iran and Egypt and other parts of the region. Mottaki therefore spoke from a position of strength when he referred condescendingly to the fourth round of Iranian-US ambassadorial talks on Iraq which are planned to take place in Baghdad at a future date.
He said: Iran “has concerns about the way the other side would cooperate in these talks and also the commitment of the other side to these results.”
The Olmert government is keeping its head down against Tehran’s momentum, opting for the role of non-player in a potentially hostile scenario. Iran will certainly try and cajole Egypt, the first Arab nation to sign peace with Israel, to cool its ties with the Jewish state for the sake of substantial gains from its oil-rich suitor.