Although preoccupied with charting their next moves in Lebanon, the Iranians have not neglected their illegal nuclear program. There was confirmation this week of DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s disclosure several months ago of the construction of a bombproof, underground uranium enrichment facility at the Natanz nuclear site, where Iran has already assembled thousands of P-1 and P-2 centrifuges. Our sources exposed the existence of these tunnels after a visit to the site by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, who were stopped by their Iranian escorts from passing through a thick door leading to the underground chambers.
A week ago, the Iranians admitted to having built underground tunnels in the city of Isfahan so as to press on with their nuclear projects even under aerial bombing.
At the nuclear site at Parchin, in suburban Tehran, the Iranians have constructed small replacement facilities where a small number of P-type centrifuges continue to spin.
The Iranians have not for a moment ceased their quest for uranium enrichment. Although all the operational kinks have yet to be smoothed out, Iran expects a breakthrough.
According to our intelligence sources, the Iranians have managed to remove seals IAEA inspectors stamped on the Natanz centrifuges without breaking them. They appear to have learned the trick from the North Koreans. Now, all the Iranians have to figure out is how to go about enriching uranium without emitting telltale traces of radiation. In the meantime, they are making do with dry runs.
Another round of talks between Iran and the EU-3 ended inconclusively Thursday, March 10, with no breakthrough in the economic-trade, political-security and technical-nuclear committees.
Both sides realize the negotiations are at a dead end over Iran’s refusal to relinquish what it calls its right to enrich uranium and recycle nuclear fuel. The Europeans are aware that any concessions to Iran on the issue would result in an Iranian nuclear bomb. Nonetheless, Iran and the EU-3 are keen on keeping the talks going.
For its part, Europe is waiting for the outcome of the Iranian presidential election in July, hoping it will lead to a softening in Tehran’s position. But it is supreme leader Ali Khamenei who dictates nuclear policy – not the president. Iran is willing to continue the negotiating charade because a breakdown would leave it no choice other than to make good on its threat to resume uranium enrichment. That would give the United States the opening it needs to hand the whole sorry mess to the UN security council for economic sanctions, a measure that would win total European support.
Drones disguised as UFOs
The Bush administration perseveres in its war of nerves against Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week approved a $15 m expansion of radio and TV broadcasts to Iran and $3 m for distribution among anti-regime activists in the country. Opposition circles learn from the experience gained in Poland, Ukraine and potentially Lebanon, that many young Iranians would join the dissident movement if they were given the right tools – computers, printers, cell phones and other expenses. The main difficulty is getting money transferred to opposition leaders inside the country without carriers getting caught. The CIA and State Department are working on this problem.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources add that as part of its psychological war against the Islamic Republic, the US has expanded the deployment of drones over Iran. By night, some of them take on strange shapes and emit oddly flashing lights, giving rise to reports of UFOs over Iranian towns – and especially nuclear sites.
Iran’s chief of staff General Salimi admitted there was some public panic but declared. “Our air force and army are prepared for all contingencies.”