Jul 27, 2008


By Joel C. Rosenberg

Western intelligence analysts continue to look at the strong possibility that Israel could strike Iranian nuclear and military targets this fall, possibly in November. Now three new pieces of data need to be factored into the equation.

First, Iran now claims to have 6,000 operational centrifuges, feverishly enriching uranium. That is double the number operating at the beginning of the year. "Islamic Iran today possesses 6,000 centrifuges," Ahmadinejad told a group of professors in the city of Mashhad. What's more, according to the Associated Press, "A total of 3,000 centrifuges is the commonly accepted figure for a nuclear enrichment program that is past the experimental stage and can be used as a platform for a full industrial-scale program that could churn out enough enriched material for dozens of nuclear weapons.

Iran says it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that will ultimately involve 54,000 centrifuges." That said, not everyone is convinced Iran is telling the truth, or that all 6,000 centrifuges -- if they do have them -- are actually operational. "

An Israeli official who closely monitors the Iranian nuclear program told The Jerusalem Post that Ahmadinejad was probably lying. 'Our assessment, based on the latest available information and recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, is that the figure of 6,000 centrifuges is unlikely, "the official said." We believe a figure of between 3,400 and 3,500 is more accurate."

The key, however, is that Iran is defying the international community and moving steadily in the direction of enriching enough uranium to high enough standards to be able to begin producing nuclear warheads, possibly within the next year or two, according to senior Israeli intelligence officials.

Second, U.S. officials now believe Russia will not be delivering to Iran this fall a promised and paid for state-of-the-art ground-to-air missile system. The S-300 system was supposed to be delivered to the Iranians as early as September, and operational within 6 to 12 months of delivery, according to Reuters. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said: "We firmly believe, based upon our understanding of the situation, that the Iranians will not be receiving that Russian anti-aircraft system this year." This buys the Israelis more time, but also increases pressure on Jerusalem to strike the Iranians -- if they are going to strike at all -- before the Russian air defense system is delivered and operational, and probably while President Bush is still in office. That calculus has some analysts looking to a possibly late fall or early winter preemptive strike.

Third, "Iran signaled Thursday that it will no longer cooperate with U.N. experts probing for signs of clandestine nuclear weapons work, confirming the investigation is at a dead end a year after it began," reported the Associated Press. "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday accused Iran of not being serious at the Geneva talks. She warned that all six nations were serious about a two-week deadline for Iran to agree to freeze suspect activities and start negotiations or else be hit with a fourth set of U.N. penalties." Diplomacy is not working. The sanctions that are currently in place are not changing the dynamic. And time is running out.

In many ways, the Israelis find themselves today in a situation somewhat like the spring of 1967 when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and other Arab leaders were vowing to "throw the Jews into the sea" and were surrounding the Jewish State with military firepower that posed an existential threat. Israel had to make a decision: strike first and hope to gain the advantage with the element of surprise, or wait to be hit, and risk being annihilated. Let's keep praying for peace, therefore. After all, the nations of the epicenter are clearly preparing for war. [For more, see Time magazine's article, "Israel's Debate Over an Iran Strike."]