According to debkafile's Iranian sources, Tehran is preparing an underground test of a one-kiloton nuclear device during 2012, much like the test carried out by North Korea in 2006. Underground facilities are under construction in great secrecy behind the noise and fury raised by the start of advanced uranium enrichment at Iran's fortified, subterranean Fordo site near Qom.
All the sanctions imposed so far for halting Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon have had the reverse effect, stimulating rather than cooling its eagerness to acquire a bomb.
Yet, according to a scenario prepared by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University for the day after an Iranian nuclear weapons test, Israel was resigned to a nuclear Iran and the US would offer Israel a defense pact while urging Israel not to retaliate.
As quoted by the London Times Monday, Jan. 1, INSS experts, headed by Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel's National Security Council, deduced from a simulation study they staged last week that. Their conclusion is that neither the US nor Israel will use force to stop Iran's first nuclear test which they predicted would take place in January 2013.
Our Iranian sources stress, however, that Tehran does not intend to wait for the next swearing-in of a US president in January 2013, whether Barack Obama is returned for a second term or replaced by a Republican figure, before moving on to a nuclear test.
Iran's Islamist rulers have come to the conclusion from the Bush and Obama presidencies that America is a paper tiger and sure to shrink from attacking their nuclear program – especially while the West is sunk in profound economic distress.
debkafile's sources stress that both Tehran and the INSS are wrong: The Tel Aviv scenario is the work of a faction of retired Israeli security and intelligence bigwigs who, anxious to pull the Netanyahu government back from direct action against the Islamic Republic, have been lobbying for the proposition that Israel can live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
Our Washington sources confirm, however, that President Obama considers the risk of permitting a nuclear-armed Iran to be greater than the risks of military action.
Monday, Jan. 9, top administration officials said that developing a nuclear weapon would cross a red line and precipitate a US strike. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: "If Iran takes the step to develop a nuclear weapon or blocking the Strait of Hormuz, they're going to be stopped." He was repeating the warnings of the past month made by himself and Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Martin Dempsey.
As for Israel, Dennis Ross, until recently senior adviser to President Obama, reiterated in a Bloomberg interview on Jan. 10: "No one should doubt that President Barack Obama is prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if sanctions and diplomacy fail."
As for Israel, Ross said: "I wouldn't discount the possibility that the Israelis would act if they came to the conclusion that basically the world was prepared to live with Iran with nuclear weapons," he said. "They certainly have the capability by themselves to set back the Iranian nuclear program."
Israel's media screens and front pages are dominated these days by short-lived, parochial political sensations and devote few words to serious discourse on such weighty issues as Iran's nuclear threat.
This is a luxury that the US president cannot afford in an election year. Iran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb and conduct of a nuclear test would hurt his chances of a second term. The race is therefore on for an American strike to beat Iran's nuclear end game before the November 2012 presidential vote.
The INSS have also wrongly assessed Russia's response to an Iranian nuclear test as "to seek an alliance with the US to prevent nuclear proliferation in the region."
This fails to take into account that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, running himself for a third term as president in March, has already committed Moscow to a new Middle East policy which hinges on support for a nuclear Iran and any other Middle East nation seeking a nuclear program. This is part of Russia's determined plan to trump America's Arab Spring card.