Washington’s Non-Diplomatic Track for Dealing with Iran’s Nuclear Program

The latest statements coming from Washington on Iran’s nuclear program showed that two can play Tehran’s game of double talk, obfuscation and reserved options.
President George W. Bush said on Friday, March 11: “I look forward to working with our European friends to make it abundantly clear to the Iranian regime that the free world will not tolerate them having a nuclear weapon.” He spoke after the Europeans agreed to refer the issue to the UN Security Council of diplomacy failed to bring Iran round.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spelled out the US government’s decision to go along with the European incentives strategy for breaking the negotiating deadlock on Iran’s nuclear program. She said Saturday, March 12: “We will make it clear that we will lift our objections to an Iranian application to the WTO and that we are prepared to lift an objection to the licensing of spare parts for Iranian commercial aircraft.”
Do these statements sound accommodating? If so, the impression was swiftly corrected by Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview to Fox TV: “At the end of the day, if the Iranians don’t live up to their obligations and their international commitments to forego a nuclear program, then obviously we’ll have to take stronger action.”
In any case, the Iranians lost no time in dismissing the US bow to EU strategy.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Tehran reiterated: No pressure, bribes or threats can make Iran give up its legitimate right. The spare parts should never have been blocked in the first place and every country has the right to membership of the World Trade Organization.
This was not Tehran’s first official brush-off of the European offer of incentives. On March 3, foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi Kamal Kharrazi declared it was Iran’s inalienable right to seek technology for the production of nuclear fuel and it cannot be waived for economic or other incentives. Some pundits saw this as a bargaining ploy by Islamic regime. debkafile‘s Iranian experts hold the view that nothing America or Europe can offer will tempt the Iranians to give up their ambition to attain a nuclear weapon.
On March 4, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 196 revealed with what contempt top Iranians privately regard the European offer: Expediency Council chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told confidants at a closed meeting on March 2: “They think we are children who can be tempted with candy. They want to strip us of our nuclear knowledge and give us a ‘prize’ such as membership in the World Trade Organization or an Airbus passenger jet.”
Our Tehran sources report that the Iranian leadership fervently believes that America’s decision to go along with the European proposition to get Iran to permanently give up uranium enrichment is a trick to draw the Europeans into coming to terms with Security Council sanctions. US officials have shared with them top-secret evidence that Iran is continuing uranium enrichment at clandestine sites undisclosed to the International Atomic Energy Agency. This evidence was laid out to support Washington’s argument that at the end of the day, the Iranian case will have to be referred to the UN Security Council in the coming months.
The list of violations grows longer. Iran has been discovered stepping up activities in the tunnels running underneath the Isfahan nuclear facility where raw uranium is being converted into gas for use in uranium enrichment at the Natanz plant. Iran hopes the underground facility will be safe from any US bomb attack. Our intelligence sources have discovered that the Iranians found a way to remove IAEA seals from centrifuges at Natanz, a trick they may have picked up from the North Koreans.
In addition, the Iranians have built an alternative plant at the sprawling Parchin military base in the suburbs of Tehran to take over from the Natanz facility in an emergency. IAEA inspectors visited Parchin twice and collected soil and air samples. But the UN watchdog discovered Tehran had again pulled the wool over its eyes. The inspectors were taken to an area several kilometers away from the uranium enrichment plant and their samples were naturally clean. The follow-up visit demanded by IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei was tersely refused.
Several smaller replacement facilities have also been built to keep small quantities of P type centrifuges at work.
The fact is that whatever commitments they may have made in negotiations, the Iranians have never stopped working on projects for testing and improving their uranium enrichment capabilities. They have not yet ironed out all the snags but are confident that with persistent testing and repairs they will achieve a breakthrough.
Iran’s conduct amply demonstrates that the EU-Iranian negotiating track which Washington has just endorsed is at a dead end. But Tehran and the three European negotiating powers, Britain, France and Germany, are loath to admit it publicly. The Europeans think they can talk their way out of the crisis and convince the Americans that there is still hope the Iranians will understand it is more advantageous for them to cooperate than face UN sanctions; while the Iranians are using the talks as a useful cover for pressing ahead with their clandestine plans to finish building a bomb.
Officials in Tehran continue without let-up to brandish their fists against the United States, Israel or anyone else whom they fear might attack its nuclear facilities or other targets in the country.
“Most recently, Yahy Rahim Safavi, commander of the Revolutionary Guards threatened, “If Israel attacks us, we will not leave a single soul alive in occupied Palestine,” adding that not a single member of the 190,000-strong American contingents in Iraq and Afghanistan would be safe from Iranian attack if US forces struck Iran.
debkafile‘s sources flatly deny the London Sunday Timesreport alleging that Israel has drawn up a secret plan for a combined air and ground attack on targets in Iran if diplomacy fails to halt its nuclear plans, or that this purported plan was discussed with US officials.
But Washington has not gone back on its statement that all options are on the table with regard to Iran, including the military if incentives and UN sanctions are unavailing to halt Iran’s onward march towards a nuclear bomb.
Mindful of the stream of threats coming from Tehran, visiting US troops began their biennial air-defense exercise with Israel Thursday, March 10 with the focus on testing Israel’s Arrow II missile-killer system in conjunction with upgraded US-Patriot batteries.
Both sides described the month-long game codenamed Juniper Cobra as routine. Indeed, the US army spokeswoman Connie Summers declared, “There is absolutely no connection with any event in the region.”
But Israeli security sources said Juniper Cobra would treat Iran’s most advanced Shehab-3 missiles as the main “threat.” Clearly, the drill will not ignore the possibility of an Iranian Shehab-3 missile reaching Israel in the near future armed with a nuclear warhead.
The Arrow is the only system capable of intercepting missiles at atmospheric level. Independent experts estimate its success rate as 95 percent but some doubt whether it would be reliable against a salvo Shahab-3s.
But the Bush administration is not letting the grass grow under its feet inside Iran either. The United States, according to our military sources, is pressing ahead with its development of infrastructure for an Iranian underground opposition. A Revolutionary Guard unit in Hur al-Azim, near the Iraqi border, recently captured a band smuggling thousands of handguns into Iran. In recent months, thousands of rifles and masses of ammunition have got through to Iranian tribes near the Iraqi frontier. These tribes have a long history of rebellion against central government in Tehran and are practiced in guerrilla tactics.
Iran is extremely concerned by the unrest bubbling up in this region and accuses Israel of being behind it.

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