Except behind closed doors, Saudi and Israel politicians beware of saying out loud what they all think: that the Obama administration has traded in its traditional Middle East assets of Israeli military prowess and Saudi oil for an alliance with Iran. No one wants to say bluntly that Iran is not just a nuclear threshold state, but may have actually crossed the threshold to a bomb.
President Barack Obama has no qualms about spelling this out:
Saturday, Dec. 7, in answer to questions at the Saban Forum of the Brookings Institution in Washington, the US president said: “Theoretically, they [the Iranians] will always have some capability because technology here is available to any good physics student at pretty much any university around the world,” he said. “And they have already gone through the cycle to the point where the knowledge we are not going to be able to eliminate. What we can do is eliminate the incentive for them to want to do this.”
If any student can acquire knowledge of the nuclear cycle, as Obama says, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime has outlived its usefulness, according to DEBKA Weekly experts. If Iran is allowed to enrich uranium in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and International Atomic Energy Agency prohibitions, so can everyone else.
Did Iran already have a bomb when Geneva talks started?
Pursuing the same theme, Obama said: “Because the technology of the nuclear cycle, you can get off the Internet, the knowledge of creating a nuclear weapon is already out there. And Iran is a large country and it is a relatively wealthy country, and so we have to take seriously the possibility that they are going to try and get a nuclear weapon. That’s what this whole exercise is about. Having said that, if you look at the history, by the time we got an agreement with North Korea, they essentially already had a nuclear weapon,” the US president said.
Does that mean that Tehran pulled the same trick as Pyongyang, going into talks with the six world powers with a nuclear weapon already secretly tucked away – unbeknownst to the world powers with whom it was negotiating, as well as Israel? Or perhaps it was known but not acknowledged.
There is not much difference between a nation which like Iran possesses all the enriched uranium and components required for assembling four to six working nuclear weapons within four to six weeks, and one that is already nuclear-armed.
President Obama may be believe he can dissuade Iran from taking that last step for putting a weapon together, but even he is not convinced of that, judging from his secretary of state John Kerry’s remarks Tuesday, Dec. 10, to the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee.
Iran throws its weight around like an accomplished nuclear power
“I came away from our preliminary negotiations,” said Kerry, “with serious questions about whether or not they’re ready and willing to make some of the choices that have to be made.”
He went on to ask, “Has Iran changed its nuclear calculus?” and answered: “I honestly don’t think we can say for sure yet. And we certainly don’t take words at face value.”
In that case, why is Washington letting Iran get away with performing like a nuclear power, even before a date has been set to start the six-month period for a nuclear freeze and negotiations on a final settlement of the nuclear controversy?
John Kerry knew what he was talking about.
Iran is treating the six-month period and the run-up to its start as a heaven-sent opportunity for covering as much ground as it can, while it can.
At top speed, with skill and aggressive vigor, Tehran is cashing in on its acknowledged right to enrich uranium and racing to seize the international status and clout befitting a new nuclear power.
Furthermore, DEBKA Weekly’s military and Iranian sources note that Iranian diplomats are behaving as though Washington is solidly behind them, ever since the Obama administration promoted their relations to the highest level and reduced Riyadh and Jerusalem to second place.
Open line to the White House shifts from Jerusalem to Tehran
When challenged on this, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu burst out: ”What do you expect me to do? Send faxes to Obama?”
Clearly, the Israeli leader no longer has an open line to the White House. It is kept busy with calls to and from Tehran.
The Iranians for their part are already thrusting their tentacles into five critical pies:
1. Syria. In DEBKA Weekly 614 of Dec. 6, we reported that Revolutionary Guards had landed in Syrian Kurdistan to set up an Iranian area of influence in the North to counter the American-influenced security sector which the US is carving out in southern Syria.
The trouble is that progress between the two is lopsided. Whereas the Guards are digging in quickly and resolutely, backed by a steady influx of Iranian personnel and military assistance, the Americans in contrast are moving slowly and tentatively for two objective reasons:
a) While Tehran is fully empowered by President Bashar Assad to pump Iranian personnel into the Kurdish region, Washington must make do with specially-trained volunteers, most of them Jordanian. Their immediate impact on the area to which they are assigned south of Damascus is minimal.
b) Tehran can use the friendly local Kurdish PYD as the foundation for building a structure of influence in northern Syria, whereas the Americans have no local allies in the south.
Iran has the added advantage of an increasingly successful campaign to perpetuate the existing Assad regime. (See a separate article on this and the American voices calling for Washington to accept the Syrian ruler as the winner of the civil war.)
Iranian manipulations split GCC, isolate Saudi Arabia
2. The Gulf. Tehran has launched a major offensive for isolating Saudi Arabia and drawing its Gulf allies over to its side, counting on Riyadh to eventually abandon its ties with Cairo and Jerusalem against Iran and Assad, and see the wisdom of working with rather than against Iran.
Tuesday, Dec. 10, debkafile exclusively revealed the landmark deal shaping up between Tehran and Dubai for power-sharing over the three Hormuz islands claimed by UAE and occupied by Iran.
Last weekend, Tehran deployed ten SU-25 Frogfoot assault planes capable of ground and sea attack at the Revolutionary Guards air base on Abu Mussa, one of those islands.
This act imbued the Geneva deal with a broad strategic dimension over and above the nuclear issue.
3. Afghanistan. The Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s visit to Tehran this week kicked off negotiations for a string of political, military and economic contracts between the two governments. It was perceived in Washington as another anti-American move adding fuel to Karzai’s refusal to sign a security accord for the deployment of US units in his country after the major troop evacuation next year.
Keeping Pakistan and Saudi Arabia out of Kabul
Taking advantage of the tense relations between the Obama administration and Kabul, Iran has begun using Karzai to block Pakistan’s path to influence in Kabul after the US withdrawal. This is doubly important to Tehran because Prime Minister Nawaf Sharif would also open the door to its main adversary, Saudi Arabia, to step in.
Tehran is also anxious to protect the rights of the roughly 6 million Afghan Shiites concentrated in the North, who make up 20 percent of the total population.
4. Iraq. No sooner was the Afghan president out the door in Tehran than the pro-Iranian Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki entered. He came to collect his orders, which were to make sure that the candidates chosen in Iraq’s forthcoming general and local elections share his enthusiasm for preserving Baghdad’s close alignment with Tehran.
Until a few months ago, Washington tried to curb Iranian domination of Iraq, but has since thrown in the towel.
5. Hizballah. Washington’s first indirect contacts with Hizballah through British diplomats – first revealed by debkafile on Nov, 10 – will smooth its leader, Hassan Nasrallah’s path to foisting on Beirut a pro-Iranian administration and dislodging the pro-US and pro-Saudi regime in place at present.