When all sides of any world crisis, their policy makers, military chiefs and advisers, all agree to hold action until a certain date – in this case, June 2013, when Iran votes for its next president – it usually means two things:
1. None of them know how to get out of a hole before that date, whether it is Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb or the interrelated North Korean nuclearization.
2. Even worse, they have no notion how to manage this after that date either, because the United States and Europe – especially France, the most aggressive opponent of a nuclear Iran – are busy cultivating economic and military ties with the Gulf states and can’t tell how those plans may fit in with the Iranian situation that far ahead.
The United States has stepped out of inaction mode for the single purpose of embracing a complex diplomatic ploy: Russia’s initiative for ending the Syrian civil war. President Barack Obama and his White House strategic advisers are counting heavily on accruing benefits from giving Moscow and Tehran a free hand on Syria as well as leaving their ally, Bashar Assad, in power for the next two or three years. The payoff they hope for would be a Russian-Iranian recipe for resolving the Iranian nuclear impasse in a way that is acceptable to Washington, though not to Israel.
Boosting Assad and Shiite Crescent
Jerusalem, Dubai (UAE) and Riyadh believe Washington is again building castles in the air, with menacing consequences for the region: One – Tehran will end up with a nuclear arsenal. Two – the Middle East nuclear arms race will heat up with Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Turkey and Israel participating (See a separate item on the appointment of a new defense minister in Jerusalem). Three – Assad will emerge as the neighborhood strongman with dominant influence over his strategic partner, HIzballah’s Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.
By letting Moscow and Tehran have a clear run in Syria, the Obama administration is seen in Middle East capitals as letting the Shiite Crescent plan – only dreamed of by the Iranian Shiite revolutionary Ruhollah Khomenei – become a solid reality.
And still, the Obama administration in Washington persists, as did its predecessor under George W. Bush, in turning a blind eye to the way the intense interplay between Iran and North Korea boosts the military prowess and standing of the two burgeoning nuclear powers, preferring to treat them as separate challenges.
Translate Pyongyang’s threats into Farsi
When former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman, after a pioneering attempt at “basketball diplomacy,” said Monday, March 4, that all Kim Jong Un, whom he pronounced “an awesome guy”, wants is for President Obama to call him, the White House pretended not to understand that what goes for North Korea, goes for Tehran. Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was putting out a signal that he too wants Obama to pick up the phone and call him.
But since this “simple action” is not on the Obama agenda, threats soon followed. While issuing from Pyongyang, they were meant to be translated also into Farsi.
For instance, North Korea’s official suspension Tuesday, March 5, of the KPA office in Panmunjom (truce village) tentatively operated by North Korea army as the negotiating body for the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean civil war, may be read as a threat by Tehran to suspend the Six-Power nuclear talks resumed last week in Kazakhstan.
And when Pyongyang said in the same announcement that it would scrap the Korean armistice and sever its military hotline with Washington if the US and South Korea went through with plans for two months of joint war games, Tehran was threatening to cut short its interminable dialogue with the international nuclear watchdog IAEA) in the first instance. The next step would be Iran’s withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Tehran blows hot and cold
All the same, two events, disclosed exclusively by debkafile’s military and intelligence sources, persuaded President Obama to hold his horses on Iran’s nuclear program until the magic date of June 2013.
a) On Tuesday, Feb. 26, the day Chuck Hagel was confirmed as the new US Secretary of Defense, the British Daily Telegraph carried satellite images showing signs of activity at the Arak heavy water plant, including a cloud of steam. This was taken as demonstrating that Iran was on the way to producing plutonium – and not just enriched uranium – for fueling a nuclear bomb. Therefore, it was implied, the new US defense secretary was too late to stop Iran’s nuclear weaponization process.
debkafile’s military sources added that the small cloud of steam did not necessarily attest to the start of production at the Arak plant; it could simply be a sign of preliminary tests.
This estimate has just been verified by our intelligence sources: All that was going on at the plant was to experimentally heat up water in the cooling pools of the plant and this is what produced the steam.
The British are correct in assessing that Iran has gone a step further toward making plutonium bombs, but there is still has a long way to go, at least two to three years, from heating up water in the plant’s cooling pool to production.
Like the Arak pool, Tehran was blowing hot and cold at the same time.
b) Five days earlier, on Friday, Feb. 22, the IAEA in Vienna was allowed to “discover” that new fast centrifuges of the IR2M type had been installed at the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz. They would shorten Iran’s timeline up to the red line drawn by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the UN General Assembly in September 2012. That red line was 250 kilograms of 20-percent military grade enriched uranium.
Inter-power consensus for punishing NKorea – not Iran
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources say Iran is currently believed to have 167 kilograms, but no one knows if this number is correct. And, moreover, when we closed this issue, no Western or Israeli intelligence official had proof that the new fast IR2M centrifuges were actually working. They were certainly installed in Natanz, but there is much doubt that they are already operating smoothly at industrial capacity.
In this case too, Tehran was blowing hot and cold – first showcasing nuclear advances in defiance of the West for domestic consumption, then quietly downplaying the boast as a message to President Obama not to take the hot air seriously and continue to be patient until after Iran’s June 2013 presidential election.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice said Tuesday, March 5, that a US-China draft resolution to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test would impose some of the toughest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations. She told reporters when the draft circulated among Security Council members. that “the breadth and scope of these sanctions is exceptional” and would further impede the growth of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs. “We hope for a unanimous adoption this week,” Rice said.
Significantly, there is no such consensus among the world powers on Iran’s nuclear violations.