Tehran plans a nuclear weapons test before March 20, 2006 – the Iranian New Year, moves Shahab-3 missiles within striking range of Israel
Reporting this, the dissident Foundation for Democracy in Iran, a US-based watch group, cites sources in the US and Iran. The FDI adds from Iran: on June 16, the high command of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force ordered Shahab-3 missile units to move mobile launchers every 24 hours instead of weekly. This is in view of a potential pre-emptive strike by the US or Israel.
Advance Shahab-3 units have been positioned in Kermanshah and Hamad within striking distance of Israel, reserve launchers moved to Esfahan and Fars.
The missile units were told to change positions “in a radius of 30-35 kilometers” and only at night.
debkafile‘s Iranian sources add: FDI reporting has a reputation for credibility. Western and Israeli intelligence have known for more than six months that Iran’s nuclear program has reached the capability of being able to carry out a nuclear explosion, albeit underground. It would probably be staged in a desert or mountain region and activated by a distant control center. Tehran would aim at confronting the Americans, Europeans and Israelis with an irreversible situation.
At the same time, an explosion of this sort would indicate that Iran is not yet able to produce a nuclear bomb that can be delivered by airplane or a warhead adapted to a missile. The stage Iran has reached is comparable to Pakistan’s when it conducted its first nuclear tests in the nineties and North Korea’s in 2001. All the same, an Iranian underground nuclear blast, which will most probably be attempted on March 22, would turn around the strategic position of all the parties concerned and the Middle East as whole.
The question now is: will the United States, Israel or both deliver a pre-emptive strike ahead of the Iranian underground test – or later? Or will Washington alternatively use the event to bring the UN Security Council round to economic sanctions? Tehran is already organizing to withstand economic penalties. For Israel, the timing is getting tight in view of its general election on March 28. Acting prime minister Ehud Olmert must take into account that a ruling party which allows an Iranian nuclear explosion to take place six days before the poll would draw painful punishment from the voter.