Attaining the ability to enrich uranium up to 20 percent grade brings Iran dangerously close to "break-out" point for a nuclear weapon capability, debkafile's intelligence sources report. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised the "good news" would be announced during the Feb. 1-11 celebrations of the Islamic Revolution. The "news" was the subject of an urgent cabinet meeting in Jerusalem last week.
His announcement is a provocative mark of contempt for the six world powers and their offer to trade Iran's low-grade uranium for 20 pc enriched product overseas. By going public on the banned process and abandoning concealment, Iran's rulers are throwing down the gauntlet to them and Israel.
debkafile's Iranian sources report that the hawks of the Islamic regime led by Ahmadinejad and spiritual ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have won the day for their tactics of jumping ahead of any possible US-led or Israel steps against their nuclear program by pursuing its own aggressive initiatives.
The Iranian president's enrichment announcement at a time that the Obama administration is pondering tough sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards was part of this policy; so were the Syrian and Hizballah declarations of military preparedness for a purported Israeli attack last week, taking advantage of an IDF war game to raise the alarm.
Our political sources predict that Tehran's provocative move will be met with more of the five months of foot-dragging with which Washington and Jerusalem have met Iran's contempt for one deadline after another for ending nuclear enrichment. Both will continue to dither and pretend that stiff sanctions will scotch the Iranian nuclear threat. The Netanyahu government will keep up the pretence that the world and its sanctions can do the job. Tehran has meanwhile made good use of those five months to go forward and achieve a 20 pc enrichment capability.
The only straight talk from any Western leader has come from French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Saturday, Jan. 23, he told visiting Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri that France has evidence Iran is developing nuclear weapons contrary to its claims. He warned that Israel "would not stand by while Iran develops nuclear weapons.