Nuclear Iran; Strike Becoming Possible Option
November, 2011: major reports and commentary focus on Iran, its nuclear program, and anticipated and/or possible American and/or Israeli response. Can diplomacy work or will an offensive strike be required to stem the threat of a nuclear capable Iran?
Iran launched its nuclear program with American assistance in the 1950s. Under the “Atoms for Peace” program, the United States – and several Western European governments – provided technical and financial support to the Shah’s government. Following the 1979 Revolution, most Western governments pulled their assistance, and Iran turned to other sources. Bushehr I, its first nuclear power plant, is the culmination of its initial peaceful use of nuclear power efforts. The plant opened September 12 2011, the first of 19 planned nuclear power plants.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the United Nations agency charged with acting as the world’s ‘nuclear watchdog.’ Its 2011 report is said to indicate that Iran’s has “succeeded in obtaining sensitive nuclear technology and fears that Iran could quickly build an atomic bomb if it chooses to.” (According to reports circulating in the press) the IAEA believes that Iran has the capability of creating a nuclear weapon. “Intelligence provided to the United Nations indicates that Iran re instituted its weapons-related research after 2003 and “has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon,” and “overcome key technical hurdles.” Assistance from scientists of the FSU, Pakistan and North Korea helped Iranian scientists build the precision detonators capable of triggering a nuclear chain reaction.”The program never really stopped,” said David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.
The IAEA report is expected to be distributed during the week of November 6 and is expected to focus on “Iran’s efforts to put the fissile material in a warhead and develop missiles to carry them to a target.”
From her unparalleled position and exposure, Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, stated categorically that “I have no doubt Israel will defend itself against Iran.” Interviewed about her new book “No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington,” she says the Israelis “will defend themselves” if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.” She acknowledges the difficulty of success of such an attack, but in an interview with Newsmax Chief Washington Correspondent Ronald Kessler said “the president of the United States should always keep that option of taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
Rice says “everyone has tried increasingly tough diplomacy with the Iranians, and now with some of the weaknesses in that regime we can always hope that there’s a good chance to bring it down.”
Rice’s words were echoed by the State Department’s Edgar Vasquez, Press Spokesman in the office of Jeffrey Feltman, the Assistant Secretary who heads the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, whose portfolio includes Iran and the nations of the Middle East. Vasquez discussed the IAEA report with the Algemeiner prior to its official release. He stressed that the President “has been very clear” saying that countries that break the rules “must be held accountable.” “We are focused on tough diplomacy,” said Vasquez and “believe there is still time for diplomacy” a process “actively underway.” He noted that Iran has conceded that sanctions have had “an effect” and left the Islamic Republic increasingly isolated. If the report pans out,” said Vasquez “the United States will continue to find ways to isolate them further.” “Iran must comply with its obligations and commitments.”
“I think that’s now becoming clearer to the administration.” said Rice. “They reached out a hand of friendship to the Iranians at the beginning. The Iranians essentially bit it off.” “For the time being the Israelis have decided to try to let diplomacy work. But diplomacy has to work and it has to be tough diplomacy with teeth. I don’t have any doubt that the Israelis will defend themselves if the Iranians look as if they really are about to cross that nuclear threshold.” The Iranian regime, she says, is “not a regime that can be dealt with except from a position of strength.”
From Israeli President Shimon Peres comes a warning that an attack on Iran by Israel is becoming “increasingly likely.” Interviewed by Israel Hayom, he said “the possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer … than the application of a diplomatic option…We must stay calm and resist pressure so that we can consider every alternative.”
“I don’t think that any decision has already been made, but there is an impression that Iran is getting closer to nuclear weapons.”
Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were seeking cabinet support for an attack. Agreement does not appear “guaranteed,” and it is believed that no US commitment of support has been received. Much will depend on the content of the IAEA report by the nuclear watchdog on November 8 or 9, which will have a “decisive effect” on decision-making.
Iran continues to deny that its nuclear program is other than for power generation and medical purposes. Its Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the IAEA report would be “baseless.” “I believe that these documents lack authenticity. But if they insist, they should go ahead and publish. “Better to face danger once than be always in danger.” Speaking to Iranian papers he characterized the report as “counterfeit.”
“Let them publish and see what happens,” said Iran’s foreign minister and former nuclear top official, Ali Akbar Salehi, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported Saturday. He called the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program “100 percent political.”
Iranian sources have warned of a “crushing response” to “any “Israeli aggression” against the Islamic Republic. The Iranian Fars News Agency quoted one legislator as saying, “Before (being able to take) any action against Iran, the Israelis will feel our wrath in Tel Aviv.” Hossein Ebrahimi, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said that “since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, the U.S., UK and Israel have frequently threatened Iran… This is not a new development.”