Iran flexes missile muscles, is unfazed by big power demands

Iran tested two surface-to-surface missiles, the Shehab 3 and Sejil Monday, Sept. 28, Day 2 of its “missile war simulation” exercise. The Sejil is known to be powered by solid fuel. Both have a range of up to 2,000 km., putting Israel, the entire Middle East including US bases and southern Europe within striking distance. Sunday, short and medium-range missile were tested.
In Washington, the administration turned up the heat on Tehran by warning that the Six-Power talks opening in Geneva Thursday would demand international inspectors be allowed immediate and full access to personnel who designed and built Iran’s underground enrichment plant near Qom and receive the documents of its construction.
Quick access to the facility is considered crucial before Iran can get rid of incriminating equipment and documents, said US officials.
According to debkafile‘s Iranian sources, Tehran will not only reject the demand but place any discussion of its nuclear activities firmly out of bounds. Iranian leaders have repeatedly stated their “nuclear rights” are non-negotiable. Representatives of the US, Russia, France, the UK, Germany and China, may if they wish indulge in a one-sided conversation, they say.
Tehran has not been persuaded to budge even by the international outcry led by US president Barack Obama in New York and Pittsburgh and threat of “sanctions that bite.” Indeed Iran’s rulers have taken heart from two subsequent developments.
US defense secretary, Robert Gates, while admitting for the first time that Iran could have a nuclear bomb within a year if it so decided, stressed: “The only way you end up not having a nuclear-capable Iran is for the Iranian government to decide their security is diminished by having those weapons.”
In other words, although the defense secretary did not rule out a military option, he urged the application of persuasion rather than penalties. Tehran will certainly jump on this opening to lead the Oct. 1 meeting off the track and into a discussion of its own security, citing Israeli threats. The Iranian negotiator will not miss the chance of shifting his country’s program off the agenda and replacing it with a general debate on Middle East disarmament at large, which could drag on for months, if not years.
Tehran is also cheered by the arrival of Syrian deputy foreign minister Faysal al-Mekdad in Washington Monday, Sept. 28, at US invitation, the first for a high Syrian official visit for five years.
The Obama administration extended the invitation notwithstanding the Assad regime’s blanket refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to view its new nuclear sites (aside from the unfinished plutonium reactor Israel bombed in September 2007) or permit interviews with personnel involved in building that reactor.
debkafile‘s intelligence sources reveal that the IAEA submitted a list of staff for questioning, detailing their tasks, addresses and phone numbers. The Syrian government never replied to the request.
The Obama administration was also keen enough on a US detente with the Assad regime to set aside the bitter frictions between Iraq and Syria, whom Baghdad accuses of sheltering and abetting the perpetrators of the large-scale bombing attack on Baghdad on Aug. 19. Both have withdrawn their ambassadors from each other’s capitals.
As seen from Tehran, if President Obama at the peak of his campaign against Iran’s nuclear program is willing to continue his pursuit of good relations with Bashar Assad in the face of his covert nuclear violations, Iran can also afford to discount his recriminations and demands for compliance with international rules and carry on as before.
Washington’s threatening stance has also failed to impress the world’s energy markets.
In the week that US leaders and allies hurled strong words against Tehran several times a day, oil prices slumped 8 percent, reaching a $66-dollar low Monday morning, with a further decline predicted.

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