A slightly softer breeze blew in from Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 21, when White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “Israel and the United States share the same objective, which is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
But the US controversy with Israel over the Iran question eased by no more than a notch. Carney spoke only for Washington when he went on to say: “There is time and space for diplomacy to work, for the effect of sanctions to result in a change of Iranian behavior.”
While the first sentence of this statement was fair, Jerusalem strongly doubts the availability of time and space for diplomacy to work and does not believe for a moment that sanctions will change Iran’s behavior.
Neither did Carney’s statement represent the understanding Washington and Jerusalem reached in high-powered dialogue this week. Both sides worked hard to apply brakes to the downturn in relations before the dispute over a nuclear Iran exploded into public friction at the White House meeting March 5 between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. It was necessary to avoid a brawl during the former’s campaign for re-election.
The key understanding they reached, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report, was for the US and Israel to conduct a joint reevaluation or reassessment of pooled intelligence on Iran’s nuclear progress, after which each side would present its conclusions with a view to working toward agreed action.
Obama and Netanyahu will determine the reevaluation’s upshot
The ultimate decision for crystallizing steps against Iran would be made by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
US National Director of Intelligence James Clapper was due in Israel Thursday, Feb. 23 to kick off the process by talks with Israeli intelligence and military chiefs.
The agreed reassessment would be designed to address the three most pressing issues confronting Jerusalem and Washington:
1. Iran is determined to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and develop a rapid breakout capacity and is forging ahead relentlessly towards these goals. Two interconnected cascades of 174 IR-1 centrifuges each have already been installed at the underground Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) near Qom. Only half (348) are being fed with 20-percent enriched uranium, which UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines classify as Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU). The other half will be activated soon to expand 20 percent enrichment. By producing larger quantities of highly enriched uranium, Iran will shorten the timeline for achieving breakout capacity.
Enriched uranium stocks rise constantly
Raising the level to 90 percent, or weapons grade, would require a minimum of additional work and time.
Tehran’s claim that 20-percent grade uranium was being produced solely for its medical research reactor was knocked down by US Central Intelligence Director David Petraeus, who testified that stocks far exceed this reactor’s needs.
Iran’s accumulating stockpile of HEU, soon to be augmented by increased production at Fordo, will reduce the time needed to produce fuel for a nuclear weapon to six weeks (as debkafile reported exclusively on Feb. 22). From that moment on, Iran can assemble a nuclear bomb or warhead any time the Islamic regime in Tehran so decides.
2. According to additional intelligence input reaching the IAEA in Vienna, the military complex at Parchin is used for experiments simulating various stages of a nuclear explosion.
Therefore, notwithstanding US and European sanctions, Iran is forging ahead without pause to build up its enriched uranium stocks and at the same developing nuclear explosive materials.
Israel believes Iran is just one step short of a nuke
Given these data, Israel regards Iran’s nuclear progress as way past breakout capacity, with only one more stage left to go before the manufacture of an operational nuke. This Israel cannot afford to let happen.
Tuesday, Feb. 21, the IAEA inspection team visiting Tehran cut short its stay after being refused access to Parchin and being stonewalled when its members asked questions about activities at the installation.
3. Tehran also reached breakout point in its military pugnacity Tuesday when Deputy Armed Forces Commander Gen. Mohammad Hejazi suddenly announced that Iran would not wait to be attacked but would strike its enemies first.
Both the US Pentagon and Israel’s high command are taking this threat very seriously.