After the fiasco at Baghdad, efforts are being made to keep diplomacy between the six powers and Iran going for a while on artificial life support by another round of talks in Moscow. (See the opening article in this issue). But DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian and military experts prefer to jump six months ahead with a key question: In what situation will the US, Israel and Iran find themselves after the US presidential election in November?
Although no one says this outright, the general assumption is that a military assault to cripple Iran’s nuclear program will be postponed until after the American voter chooses the next occupant in the White House.
That delay obviously plays into the hands of Tehran and its strategic and nuclear aspirations rather than favoring the United States and Israel. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is taking it as the gift of time to bargain for two immediate goals:
1. Unlimited enrichment: Iran insists on its right to continue uranium enrichment and, so long as Barack Obama blocks an attack on its nuclear sites, it will be free to continue to do so. Tehran can use the six months’ grace to pile up enough highly-enriched uranium for 10-12 nuclear bombs and reach its longstanding objective of a nuclear arsenal.
On Tuesday, May 22, Dennis Ross, President Obama's former adviser on Iran who is widely considered one of the few people he still consults with, said at a press conference that Iran continues to enrich uranium and has probably already accumulated four or five bombs' worth of material.
Former IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said a day earlier in Tel Aviv that Iran has collected all the components of a nuclear weapon and needs nothing more than a decision to assemble one.
That being the case, Ross asserted that Washington surely doesn't have the luxury of playing for time in these negotiations.
But in fact, President Obama has given that luxury away to Iran.
Iran’s decision to build a nuclear bomb is more than two decades old
Since George W. Bush was president, administration officials have held endless arguments over whether or not Iran’s leaders have ordered the manufacture of a nuclear bomb. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian experts, the argument is academic. The decision was taken more than two decades ago when the ayatollahs initiated Iran’s nuclear program for that very purpose. They have never wavered since and exploited Western uncertainties and hesitancy to collect all the components they need to arm the Islamic Republic with a nuclear weapon. That is where Iran stands today, with no obstacle in the way of a decision.
So what is the Obama administration waiting for?
That question was posed by Jamie Fly and Matthew Kroenig, two eminent American strategic and nuclear experts, in their analysis of the US policy of nuclear concessions, particularly in the Obama years, in an article they published in the Washington Post of Monday, May 21.
They write: "The Obama administration has articulated only one bright red line: building nuclear weapons. But if we wait until Iran turns the final screws on a nuclear device, we probably will be too late."
It is most unusual for the Washington Post to publish this sort of heresy against an incumbent US President.
Advanced US oil drilling equipment for Iran despite a ban
2. Sanctions Relief: American strategists are all agreed that the US must not offer Iran relief from sanctions for anything less than the total suspension of uranium enrichment. And indeed, the White House has promised that this rule will be observed in full.
Yet certain events tell a different story. Indeed, Khamenei may be on the way to achieving his goal of diminished sanctions thanks to the Obama administration’s generosity with concessions.
Tuesday, May 22, American officials told reporters that the US is ready to ease restrictions on airplane-parts exports to Iran and offer nuclear-safety aid to Tehran. They spoke after UN nuclear watchdog agency chief Yukiya Amano voiced satisfaction with the outcome of his talks in Tehran on international oversight of suspect nuclear sites.
Since then, Amano was shown to have overstated his success. In fact, there was no agreement in Tehran.
A day earlier, an Iranian official said his company had discovered a new Caspian Sea oil field inside its territorial waters and would conduct a survey of its find. Ali Osouli, managing director of the Khazar Exploration and Production Co., reported an oil pay at least 78 feet thick in the deep waters of the Caspian. It was encountered during drilling operations for natural gas – erupting “for the first time in 104 years” – in the field where the company has been working since December.
Promised prosperity didn’t work for a nuclear North Korea
However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources point out that Iran does not possess drilling equipment capable of penetrating 78 feet in deep water. No one does except the United States.
This disclosure raises two questions: a) Who gave Iran American drilling equipment in violation of the US-led oil embargo? b) Who is operating it? Again, the only possible answer is American technicians.
Is the Obama administration violating its own sanctions by secretly providing Iran with advanced equipment and technical personnel for striking new oil resources? If so, is the White House dangling incentives to persuade Tehran to come to heel on its nuclear program for the sake of a helping hand from Washington to economic prosperity?
That would mean the Obama administration had learned nothing from the policies which tripped up its predecessors in North Korea. Although the US showered billions of aid dollars on Pyongyang, North Korea never, except for a few short breaks, gave up enriching uranium or developing ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.
The North Koreans awarded American beneficence partly to feed their army and purchase new military equipment and partly to defray the costs of its burgeoning nuclear program in which Iran is a partner.
The promise of prosperity is clearly not the way to entice Tehran either to give up its nuclear bomb program. Indeed, none of the diplomatic maneuvers employed by the Obama administration to date hold out any promise of a successful outcome – either before or after November.