Saturday, February 27, 2010

Iran Summary 26 February 2010

Iranians Bring Uranium to the Surface. On Feb. 14, with inspectors present, the Iranians moved roughly 4,300 pounds of low-enriched uranium out of deep underground storage to the small plant that they have declared they will use to re-enrich the fuel to 20 percent purity. (It takes 80- to 90-percent purity to make a weapon, a relatively small technological leap from 20 percent.)  No one understands why they would do it. Taunt the Israelis?  Invite an attack?  Perhaps they want to make it known that they intend to enrich all of their uranium.  Or perhaps there was other more important uranium to move to the underground storage.  Who knows?

Osiraq Redux: A Crisis Simulation of an Israeli Strike on the Iranian Nuclear Program. Kenneth M. Pollack, Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, ran a role-playing simulation in December to see what would happen politically and militarily if the Israelis were to attack Iran. The results indicate that Israel would have to attack Hamas and Hizbullah with both air and ground forces.  Iranian long range Shahab-3 and Hezbollah/Hamas short and medium range missiles would cause significant damage to the Israeli economy.  The US would likely be forced to clear mines from the Strait of Hormuz as well as decimate Iranian operational capability in and along the Persian Gulf.   Interestingly, the simulation assumed that the Israelis would not warn the US before striking.  I believe it is possible that the additional forces the US has sent to the Gulf are not there to defend against Iran, but are actually to prevent Israel from striking.

Several Dubai Suspects Fled through Iran.  After killing senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, two or three of the 26 current suspects actually went by boat from Dubai to Iran.  This further complicates the theory that Mossad was responsible for the killing.

Ahmadinejad Visits Syria.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah met Thursday evening in Damascus along with their senior advisors, and discussed regional developments and “the zionist threat,” it was revealed Friday.  The two were the guests of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who had dinner with the two and participated in the talks.  According to Arab media reports, the meeting was not reported upon until after it had taken place for security reasons.  On Thursday Ahmadinejad and Assad together unleashed vicious rhetoric against Israel, with Ahmadinejad declaring that the “criminal” state of Israel is doomed, and Assad charging that Israel “is capable of aggression at any point.”  A Syrian diplomat quoted by the Iranian Fars news agency noted that the two leaders were set to discuss a variety of regional issues, including ways to build support for “anti-Israeli resistance groups."  Ahmadinejad, speaking after his meeting with Assad, said that together, the two countries and their allies would establish a Middle East “without Zionists and without colonialists.”

Admiral Michael Mullen in Israel.  The visit to Israel this week by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, underlined the growing urgency of the Iranian nuclear challenge, and the Obama administration’s intensifying effort to keep closely coordinated with Israel while grappling with that threat.  Mullen’s visit coincided with the announcement that Vice President Joe Biden will also come to Israel in the near future, again for high-level talks largely focused on the Iranian issue. The visit also came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton toured Qatar and Saudi Arabia in order to shore up support for American diplomatic and military efforts in the region, ahead of visits by three of her top deputies and a reported upcoming trip by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel. The rhetoric from Washington is firm: Clinton declared to Iran that the US would “not stand idly by while you pursue a nuclear program that can be used to threaten your neighbors and even beyond.” Mullen was more curt still: Iran “cannot have a nuclear weapon, [or] nuclear capability,” he said here. 

Iran Vows Not to Suspend Uranium Enrichment. Iran’s foreign minister reiterated Tuesday that his country would never again suspend uranium enrichment, a move the United States says is essential for  Washington-Tehran negotiations.  Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was speaking a day after the United States, the four other permanent  members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany considered measures that could  include further sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend enrichment.  “Demands that Iran halt enrichment  are illegal and illegitimate and based on an incorrect political strategy. This  (suspension) will never materialize,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency  quoted Mottaki as telling a conference in the capital Tehran.  Mottaki added, however, that Iran is prepared to negotiate about its nuclear  program “without any preconditions.”

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