Who Supplies the Gas Centrifuges for Uranium Enrichment?
Last week’s revelation by DEBKA-Net-Weekly of the pressure coming from certain Iranian leaders to bring forward the timing of a nuclear test – be it only a primitive device – had a stunning effect in Tehran. The authoritative spiritual ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered an urgent probe to discover the source of the leak from the internal leadership debate in question although it was held behind closed doors.
The upshot was another secret consultation convened by the ayatollah for Monday September 29 which decided to bar any further internal debate on the national nuclear program or the pros and cons of signing the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Pact. Instructions also went out to the Iranian government press office through Minister of Intelligence Hojatoleslam Ali Younesi banning any mention of the subject in the Iranian press.
This directive was strict even by the standards of the repressive Iranian regime.
However, according to our sources in Tehran, notwithstanding the official suspension of internal debate, the nuclear question continues to exercise Iranian leaders to the point of dividing them into three camps.
The most powerful, which is led by Khamenei, maintains that the decisive moment is not yet at hand and, even in the extreme case of the Americans bringing the issue to the UN Security Council, Iran must carry on with the process of uranium enrichment until it is decided that the target has been attained.
This view is challenged by the relatively moderate president Muhammed Khatami, members of the foreign ministry and Iran’s delegates to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The only member of this camp daring to speak out in internal circles is deputy foreign minister Mohsein Amin Zadeh. He argues that sooner or later Iran will be forced to sign the Additional Protocol providing international inspectors with full rein to examine its nuclear sites, because the United States, Europe and certainly Israel will never permit the Islamic Republic to come into possession of a nuclear bomb.
To be realistic, therefore, Tehran must call off any plans for nuclear testing.
The third camp is the most extreme, led as it is by Ayatollah Ahmed Janati, who heads the most radical religious body in the country, the Council of Guardians of the Constitution.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Tehran quote this cleric as saying this week: “One day we will have to finally settle scores with America. The horn of this monster must be cut off.” Janati also urged collaboration with North Korea.
What troubles Iran’s ruling clerics most is the danger that disclosure of the internal debate coupled with intense exchanges with the IAEA in Vienna will eventually expose Iran’s supplier of gas centrifuges. The source will then dry up and the process of uranium enrichment will be brought to a stop. Heads of the Tehran regime were much alarmed by the Russian president Vladmir Putin’s offer to share the names of western firms lending Iran nuclear assistance with President George W, Bush when they met at Camp David last weekend.
According to our sources, the list Putin produced included Pakistani, French and Germany companies.