- Iran aggressively pursuing two routes to nuclear weaponry, one via uranium enrichment, the other via plutonium.
- Thus, Iran is steadily approaching the “red line,” the point at which Netanyahu has said Israel would have no choice but to strike.
- Officials in Jerusalem do not see the Obama administration taking decisive action to prevent Iran from getting The Bomb.
- To the contrary, Israel sees President Obama and Secretary John Kerry weakening their resolve and opening the door to indefinite negotiations with the new Rouhani administration, which they perceive as “moderate.”
- Israeli military leaders believe they have the operational capabilities to destroy — or at least seriously damage — Iran’s nuclear program, but they have a shortening window of time, after which the task would be beyond Israel’s capabilities.
The real-life scenario is playing out eerily like the fictional scenario I described in Damascus Countdown. Let me explain more detail:
On July 15th, I wrote that senior Israeli officials at the highest levels were telling me that Iran was dangerously close to the “red line” and that they were ready to go to war, but that they were waiting for any signs that the West — and specifically the U.S. — were going to take meaningful action.
However, not only has President Obama refused to take such action, his administration is going in the opposite direction. The White House is resisting tougher economic sanctions. It is lauding the emergence of a “moderate” like Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s new president. It is offering an olive branch to Rouhani, actively opening the door to many more months of diplomatic negotiations. It is doing so even though the Ayatollah Khamenei — the true power in Iran — has shown no sign he is willing to back down from pursuing The Bomb, and even though Rouhani’s claim to fame was that as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, he fooled the world into believing that Iran was not advancing its nuclear program from 2003 to 2005 when the truth was Iran was, in fact, aggressively building its nuclear capacities.
“We are ready to engage in serious and substantial talks without wasting time,” Rouhani said Wednesday, urging the West to focus on “talks, not threats.”
Netanyahu, however, is not buying it. He is making the case that only intense and immediate pressure — much harsher economic sanctions, plus clear evidence of a serious and looming military option — has even the remotest hope of persuading Iran that the time for diplomatic games is over.
“Iran’s president said that pressure won’t work. Not true! The only thing that has worked in the last two decades is pressure. And the only thing that will work now is increased pressure,” said the Israeli premier.
Consider the latest news stories that are relevant to this analysis:
- Israel is capable of carrying out a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities without operational support from the United States, a senior Israeli official said…on Tuesday morning.
- Although, such a strike would render less effective than one conducted by America, the unidentified official said….
- The diplomatic official doubted US intentions to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons at all costs.
- American conduct regarding Syria, contrary to declarations by President Barack Obama, shows Israel that it cannot rely on US assurances, the Israeli source said.
- Israel fears the development of direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran would ease sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for concessions, and would not satisfy the requirements imposed by Israel, the unnamed official added. Jerusalem and Washington differed on Sunday over the significance of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration, with Washington ready to work with Iran and Jerusalem warning that the new regime — like the old — is a threat to world peace.”
- Iran could begin producing weapons-grade plutonium by next summer, U.S. and European officials believe, using a different nuclear technology that would be easier for foreign countries to attack.
- The second path to potentially producing a nuclear weapon could complicate international efforts to negotiate with Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, who was sworn in Sunday in Tehran.
- It also heightens the possibility of an Israeli strike, said U.S. and European officials….
- In recent months, U.S. and European officials say, the Tehran regime has made significant advances on the construction of a heavy water reactor in the northwestern city of Arak. A reactor like the one under construction is capable of using the uranium fuel to produce 40 megawatts of power. Spent fuel from it contains plutonium—which, like enriched uranium, can serve as the raw material for an explosive device. India and Pakistan have built plutonium-based bombs, as has North Korea.
- The Arak facility, when completed, will be capable of producing two nuclear bombs’ worth of plutonium a year, said U.S. and U.N. officials.
- Iran has notified the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, that it plans to make the reactor operational by the second half of 2014 and could begin testing it later this year.
- The IAEA has been monitoring Arak since its construction began. But following Iran’s latest timeline, the site’s importance has vastly shot up for Washington and Brussels, said U.S. and European officials. “It really crept up on us,” said an official based at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters.
- “The Arak heavy water nuclear reactor in Iran will be capable of producing two nuclear bombs’ worth of weapons grade plutonium a year and will be capable of producing the material by next summer, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that cited US, UN and EU officials…..
- ‘There’s no question that the reactor and its heavy water are more vulnerable targets than the enrichment plants,’ the report quoted Gary Samore as saying, a former top adviser on nuclear issues to US President Barack Obama. ‘This could be another factor in [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s calculations in deciding how long to wait before launching military operations,’ Samore added.
- The report cited current and former US officials who said an Israeli strike on Arak would likely have to take place prior to Iran introducing nuclear materials into the facility, in order to prevent an enormous environmental disaster.”
- Iran’s economy is showing signs of foundering just as the country prepares to inaugurate its first new president in eight years, with Western sanctions cutting ever deeper into the Islamic republic’s financial lifelines and increasing pressure for a nuclear deal with the West.
- A welter of new data shows accelerated financial hemorrhaging across multiple sectors, from plummeting hard-currency reserves to steadily falling oil exports, Iran’s main source of foreign cash. U.S. officials and analysts say the tide of bad news will complicate the task awaiting Hassan Rouhani, the incoming president, but it could also increase Iran’s willingness to accept limits that would preclude it from developing nuclear weapons….
- Iranian officials last month reported an inflation rate of 45 percent — compared with 32 percent earlier in the summer — while also acknowledging that the economy is set to contract for the first time in three decades.
- Iran’s oil exports, which had declined nearly 40 percent by the end of last year, have taken a further hit in recent weeks as Tehran’s remaining Asian customers have cut back on purchases of Iranian crude.
- A draft analysis by the economic research firm Roubini Global Economics estimated that Iran’s foreign currency holdings are declining at a rate of about $15 billion a year as Tehran is forced to tap into savings to meet its current budget needs….
- Worsening matters for Iran, banking sanctions are preventing the government from accessing some of its remaining overseas reserves, said Mark Dubowitz, director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank that co-sponsored the Roubini study.
- “Iran is in serious trouble,” said Dubowitz, a sanctions expert who advised on congressional legislation that authorized some of the harshest measures. Noting that Rouhani won the election in part because of popular discontent over the regime’s economic policies, Dubowitz said the “burden now is on Mr. Rouhani to persuade the supreme leader to compromise.”
Bottom Line: I pray war isn’t necessary and that somehow Iran is stopped from building and deploying operational nuclear weapons before it’s too late. War is not inevitable. But it does appear increasingly likely, especially if Israel perceives American resolve weakening in light of the Rouhani rise to power. Let us be faithful in praying for peace, but preparing for the possibility of war.