Every time a new timeline is set for attacking Iran, compelling reasons are advanced to support it. Delays, in contrast, are rarely explained.
This time is no different. Highly-placed Western military sources assured DEBKA-Net-Weekly on Thursday, July 12 that the first week of October is the very last moment for a final decision for five reasons:
1. US, British, French German and Israeli experts and their intelligence advisers agree that the time estimate for Iran’s nuclear “breakout” has shrunk from years and months to weeks and days. Iran is reliably expected to be able to start assembling a nuclear bomb within weeks. After that, it can no longer be stopped.
That is the key consideration.
Interestingly, time estimates presented by US intelligence and scientific experts are tighter than those provided by Israel. This is because American scientific teams are better equipped for judging the state of Iran’s progress toward an enriched-uranium bomb than anyone else: Israel and French teams have focused on Iran’s alternative programs for assembling plutonium-fueled bombs. The Americans can therefore postulate Iran’s nuclear timeline with the highest accuracy.
Obama is more willing than ever before to strike Iran
2. Another critical consideration is the state of health of Iran’s all-powerful Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This came to the fore on Wednesday, July 11, when Western intelligence informants suddenly started receiving insistent reports from usually reliable sources that he was secretly hospitalized in Mashhad and may be dying.
Our intelligence sources had not confirmed these reports by the time of writing this or shed light on his condition. What is certain is that Khamenei’s uncertain health has pushed military and religious quarters in Tehran to urge that a nuclear bomb be completed with all possible speed before political conditions change as a result of the supreme leader’s declining health.
3. No one now doubts that nuclear diplomacy has collapsed and any further talks taking place are nothing but gambits for buying time, an objective that, for once, Iran and the US share. The next meeting between the six powers and Iran is scheduled for July 24 in Istanbul.
4. US President Barack Obama is more willing than ever before to give the nod for an attack on Iran. This is the consensus of informed US official sources, European military officials, Gulf leaders and Israeli government members.
They point to the evidence of the latest American military movements accompanied by parallel British and French steps in the same direction. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has just been rushed to the Persian Gulf and a second carrier, the USS John C. Stennis ordered to cut short its stay in home port and reach Gulf waters in August.
The arrival soon of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle at the United Arab Emirates (See HOT POINTS) will raise the number of Western aircraft carriers opposite Iran to five, four of them American.
Israel still refuses to share its plans with Washington
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources add that France has also begun transferring special forces to its UAE bases and Britain is completing preparations for deploying large ground, naval and air forces to Kuwait.
Military preparations for an attack on Iran are building up fast, therefore, and laid out in a clear conformation: US forces will strike from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and two islands – Masira off Oman and Socotra near Yemen, while French and British forces will operate out of and defend the UAE and Kuwait.
5. Those same Western military sources say that the distribution of Iranian strike targets between the US and Israel is still undecided. This is because Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak are keeping their cards on Israel’s plans very close to their chests, in case President Obama changes his mind about going through with the attack.
In other words, Israel continues to reserve a unilateral strike option for Iran.
Washington has consequently stepped up its monitoring of Israel’s military movements to avoid being taken by surprise, says one Western military official
"The American intelligence presence around the IDF is so dense,” he says,” that Washington cannot miss reaching enough information to anticipate an Israeli attack in time – whether to thwart it or join it.”
This knowledge could become a two-edged sword against Washington. If the Obama administration fails to stop an Israeli attack on Iran, it will have too much advance knowledge to be able to claim ignorance and must therefore share the responsibility for its execution.