President Barack Obama, after the American voter returned him to the White House Tuesday, November 6, will no doubt try to honor his election pledge to prevent Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons.
But at the most triumphal moment of his career, the US president faces Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from a position of strategic inferiority. His Iranian antagonist used every moment gained from the months of presidential campaigning in America, to jump Iran’s nuclear program forward and place its key facilities in “immune zones.”
Just last week, Iran completed the transfer of the advanced centrifuges producing 20-percent enriched uranium to the fortified underground Fordo site near Qom. This plant is no longer vulnerable to aerial bombardment. It can only be penetrated by special operations forces on the ground smashing their way in after first overpowering the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) division on permanent guard at Fordo.
In the past three months, Israel has twice displayed this combat capability in unacknowledged covert operations
On Aug. 17, unidentified commando forces blew up the special high-tension lines feeding the Fordo facility from the town of Qom. The IRGC guards missed the furtive movements of the attackers who were nowhere to be seen by the time the damage was spotted
Israel displays its special ops skills
Then, on October 24, official Sudanese spokesmen reported four Israeli bomber jets had wiped out the Yarmouk weapons and missile complex manufacturing Iranian missiles and other weapons near Khartoum. No scraps of Israeli or other Western bombs were discovered when the factory debris was sifted through by Iranian investigators. What they did find was bits of Israeli-made LF114 IDF M151 OREV anti-tank missiles.
These missiles, which have unique anti-tank and armor-piercing features, are in frequent use by Israeli special operations fighters. They carry the specialized TAWs on their backs when they are allotted to the divisions to which they are assigned. The Orlev is very heavy and so the commandos carrying them must be in peak physical shape.
Clearly, then, the raid on the Yarmouk Complex was the work of a commando unit with fighter jet air cover – a format addressed to the notice of Tehran as the model of a potential assault on Fordo.
In Paris on Nov. 1, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented after talks with French President Francois Hollande, that Iran now has the means to for launching a nuclear device.
This was the first reference by any Israeli or Western politician to Iran’s ballistic missiles as sufficiently developed to deliver nuclear warheads.
Unimpressed, Iran’s nuclear march continues
But none of Israel’s covert performances or rhetoric slowed down Iran’s nuclear progress in the slightest, any more than the tightened sanctions clamped down by the US and Europe. Iran’s race for nuclear armament continued nonstop.
So Obama starts his second term in the White House after the fact: He lost the chance of stopping Iran possessing an atomic bomb in his first term. He may now have to settle for a deal on whether Iran may stock nuclear arms and limitations on quantities. It will also have to be acceptable to Russia and China.
Shortly before he faced the American voter, Obama signaled his readiness for a deal with Khamenei through an unattributed White House briefing to a number of US media outlets stating that the United States had agreed to one-on-one talks with Iran on their nuclear controversy.
This leak was quickly denied by the White House in Washington and Khamenei’s bureau in Tehran.
Obama’s reelection has brought this option to the fore and paved the path to direct diplomacy.
Khamenei will squeeze Obama before he agrees to talks
But now, Iran has the whip hand in negotiations having advanced well on the way to gathering all the components necessary for building nuclear bombs and acquiring the means, missiles, for delivering nuclear warheads.
The US president’s original plan to persuade Khamenei to accept possession of the technology for making a bomb without actually building one, is by now a non-starter, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources. Washington will have to lower its expectations from these talks; a bid to stop a nuclear Iran in its tracks will have to make way for a discussion on the extent of Tehran’s projected nuclear stockpile.
In any event, the ayatollah will never agree to sitting down with the Americans before sanctions are lifted.
The reelected US president may try to draw Tehran into a nuclear accommodation as part of a comprehensive US-Iranian accord on the sharing-out of spheres of influence in the Middle East. This might also fit into an arrangement for ending the bloodshed in Syria for which Obama would want to enlist Vladimir Putin’s aid, although Moscow has not so far signaled its willingness to come aboard. (Read about Obama’s plans for Syria in a separate article.)
But the Iranian ruler is not expected by our Iranian sources to respond to any fruitful diplomatic initiatives before assembling 4-6 finished nuclear devices in an arsenal.
Neither has Tehran much incentive for aiding a settlement of the Syrian civil conflict before reaching this goal – especially when the Syrian bloodbath weighs heavily on America’s Middle East policy objectives.
To keep Washington on edge, Khamenei may even pull out the threat of a nuclear test.
And indeed, within hours of Obama’s victory, Tehran came out with a flat expression of bad will:
The head of the Iranian judiciary Sadeq Larijani condemned the “crimes” of US sanctions against the Iranian people. He said relations with American “cannot be possible overnight” and the US president should not expect rapid new negotiations with Tehran. He went on to say, “Americans should not think they can hold our nation to ransom by coming to the negotiating table.”