Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Iran wants Russian nuke hardware

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran demanded Sunday that Azerbaijan deliver a Russian shipment of nuclear equipment blocked at its border with Iran for the past three weeks.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in his weekly briefing that his country has asked the Azerbaijani ambassador in Iran to get his government "to deliver the shipment as soon as possible."

The blocked nuclear equipment "is in the framework of Iran-Russia cooperation" and there should be "no ban on it," he said about the shipment destined for a Russian-built nuclear reactor in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr.

Azerbaijan has said it was seeking more information about the shipment due to fears that it might violate any of the three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran over its failure to halt uranium enrichment.

On Monday, Russian state-run company Atomstroiexport said that one or two trucks carrying the equipment for Iran were stopped two weeks ago at the town of Astara, on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border.

Company spokeswoman Irina Yesipova said officials were holding talks with both Azerbaijan and Iran about the incident. She said the shipment contained "heat-isolating equipment" essential to the plant's operation but that the holdup was not likely to delay the start-up of the plant.

Iran is paying Russia more than $1 billion to build the light-water reactor at Bushehr.

Construction has been held up in recent months by disputes between Tehran and Moscow over payments and a schedule for shipping nuclear fuel.

Russia delivered the final shipment of uranium fuel in January, and Tehran has said it was hoping the plant would begin operations by summer.

The United States initially opposed Russia's building Bushehr, but later softened its position after Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia to ensure it does not extract plutonium from it that could be used to make atomic bombs.

Washington and Moscow have also said the Russian nuclear fuel supply means Iran no longer needs to continue its uranium enrichment program — a process that can provide fuel for a reactor or fissile material for a bomb.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Editor's Notes: Stopping Iran

David Horovitz , THE JERUSALEM POSTApr. 24, 2008

The consensus among Israel's political and military leaders as we near our 60th anniversary of independence is that modern Israel has never been as threatened as it is today. Given the wars of survival it had to fight in its first quarter century, that's a profoundly troubling assessment.

Although Syria has all of Israel within missile range, Hizbullah has rearmed and the quantities of weaponry flowing into Gaza risk turning a major irritant into a grave concern, the key focus of potentially devastating confrontation is the Islamist regime in Iran - itself, of course, the key state player behind Hizbullah and the Gaza Islamic radicals.

One might be tempted to disregard the annihilatory rhetoric from Teheran were it not accompanied by the relentless drive for a nuclear bomb. One might seek to downplay the nuclear drive were it not for the rhetoric. But the combination of Iran's incitement to genocide and its determined acquisition of the tools to carry out the deed has created a consensus in leadership here - not absolute unanimity, but certainly a strong majority view - that Israel's future well-being necessitates the thwarting of this Iranian regime's nuclear aspirations.

The widespread belief among Israel's leaders as recently as Israel's 59th birthday was that, one way or another, the Bush administration would halt the mullahs - either by galvanizing concerted, biting international sanctions or by force. Some of Israel's most highly placed officials, only too aware of the negligible impact sanctions were having on Iran, indeed, believed until a few months ago that the US might be resorting to military action right about now - late spring to early summer of 2008.

That the sanctions are not hurting Iran is plainly still the case, notably with oil prices at $100 a barrel compared to $25 just a few short years ago. Every small rise in oil prices yields hundreds of millions of dollars for the Iranian exchequer. Thus the quadrupling in price massively outweighs the limited impact of international sanctions - sanctions that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain described in his interview with The Jerusalem Post last month as "remarkable" in their weakness.

But the notion of a Bush presidency's resort to military action was shattered by the US National Intelligence Estimate late last year that highlighted an asserted halt in the Iranian nuclear weapons program dating back to 2003.

That report prompted a hurried visit to the US by leading Israeli intelligence personnel. Misgivings over its thrust have been expressed by the man under whose watch it was compiled, Michael McConnell. And it may be that a revised document is issued a few months from now.
But the effect of the NIE was to deny the Bush administration legitimacy for military action. President Bush, it has been belatedly accepted in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, will almost certainly not hit Iran.

The sense in Israel is that McCain recognizes the gravity of the Iranian threat, and that if he is elected, Israel will not be left alone to meet a global challenge that much of the globe refuses to internalize, in which Israel is only the most directly and urgently affected.

The belief, further, is that the US, if all else fails, could set back Iran's nuclear program by two to five years by striking at several dozen key targets in a daylong air offensive.

There is no such assessment as regards a Democratic president. Indeed, there is concern that a Democratic administration would neither use military action against Iran nor support Israel in so doing. This constitutes a major complication for Israel since the IAF would need to overfly Iraq if it felt it had no alternative but to act.

Israel does believe that it, too, has the military capabilities to set back the Iranian program by two or more years, but such intervention would be more complex for Israel than for the US, and its feasibility depends on a safe and efficient route to and from the target areas.

THE PLETHORA of assessments in recent years as to when, precisely, Iran will attain the capability to build one or more nuclear devices has led to derision in some quarters, with critics accusing intelligence analysts of crying wolf as landmark dates came and went and the Iranian program was still plainly incomplete.

In truth, Iran has had to grapple with various unexpected difficulties. But it is now able to surmount such obstacles, and by most estimates, including that of the NIE, will have enough enriched uranium for a bomb in 2009-2010. It will also have the surface-to-surface missile capability to deliver such a bomb anywhere in Israel and, assuming continued steady progress on its solid-fuel missiles, across Europe too.

Iran's strikingly undeterred progress is, ironically, being made despite President Bush's explicit determination to prevent judgment day weapons reaching regimes that cannot be trusted not to use them. It is being made despite the heightened awareness, after 9/11, of the degree of ruthlessness to which Islamic extremists will sink. And it is being made in contrast to the success that the international community had been having in curbing proliferation with the likes of Ukraine, South Africa and Libya.

Iran has been emboldened by the spinelessness of the international response to its program and to the accompanying threats it has made. And it has been emboldened by the faltering handling of North Korea's program, which has encouraged it to believe that it faces no immediate danger even as it proceeds to defy the international community.

The sense in Israel is not that time has already run out, but that time is certainly running short. There is a strong body of opinion, in the political, military and intelligence echelons, that Damascus offers a potential means to deter Iran: If Israel can seriously engage Syria, and ultimately weaken the Syrian-Iranian alliance, a lonelier Iran may be less inclined to risk a full-speed-ahead approach to the nuclear program, and could potentially suspend some of its activity.

It is at least partially in this context that intermittent comments by the prime minister, defense minister and others about a desire for a dialogue with Syria should be understood. A peace treaty with Syria, of course, would involve relinquishing the Golan Heights. But those who favor the attempt at a dialogue believe viable terms could be reached as regards Israel's security on that front, and that given the alternatives, an accommodation with Syria that curbs Iran is well worth exploring.

But the Bush administration is opposed to Israel's legitimating of an axis-of-evil state, Syria, via direct negotiations. To date, evidently, Israel has been disinclined to defy that opposition. In the light of the Iranian threat, runs the counterargument, Israel should be making plain that it cannot hold to a Washington veto on talks with Damascus.

SOME YEARS ago, Israeli intelligence received word of a North Korean shipment heading to Iran with material related to the nuclear drive. In turn, it alerted its British counterparts, and the ship was intercepted. It turned out to be carrying a cargo of relevance not to the bombmaking program, as Israel had believed, but rather to the second-stage Iranian missile program, the delivery system that brings Europe into range. In other words, Israel had alerted a European ally to a shipment that turned out to constitute no direct threat to Israel at all, but a very potent threat to Europe.

Such specific intelligence contributions, together with Israel's credible information on the overall Iranian program, have gradually helped persuade key international players of the extent of the Iranian danger. Senior Israeli intelligence officials have frequently briefed prominent allied leaders in intricate detail. Nonetheless, the inadequate international response, immensely exacerbated by the shock of the NIE, has left Israel feeling more keenly than ever that if Iran is to be stopped, it may fall to us to do so.

Because of the speed of Iran's progress toward it goal, and the complexities of a military strike over Iraq if this is deemed necessary, however, the narrow timetable for action can be readily discerned. If Iran is able to proceed with the program for another year, runs the thinking here, it will then be able to declare that it is a nuclear power. And if the Democrats win the US presidency, they may neither act against Iran nor enable Israel to do so via Iraq.

At some point in the months after Israel marks its 60th anniversary of independence, therefore, the government may have to take a decision that many leaders here consider to be the most significant the modern state has ever had to make. Does this government have the wisdom to make the right choices - to judge correctly whether military intervention is premature and irresponsible or critical to Israel's very survival? We may all find out fairly soon.

There is little doubt that Iran, if attacked by Israel, would hit back - with missile fire, with terrorism. Scenarios predict possible war with Syria and with Lebanon, and upsurges of violence on other fronts, too. Some speak of dozens of fatalities. Others are much bleaker.

But the alternative, runs some of the thinking, would be far worse. Iran, if it goes nuclear, might fire on Israel. And it might not. It might be deterred. And it might not. It might think it could get away with supplying a nuclear device to a third party to use against Israel. And it might not.
But, as a particularly well-informed Israeli put it to me last week, "One nuclear missile on Tel Aviv, and it's over." Then he added: "Did we all gather here after the Holocaust to be wiped out by one bomb?"

Alasdair Palmer
Daily Telegraph-UK, April 27, 2008

One of the most terrifying possibilities the world faces is that al-Qa'eda, or some other Islamist group, gets hold of a nuclear bomb. Islamist terrorists are certainly trying to obtain one: Osama bin Laden has issued a document entitled The Nuclear Bomb of Islam, which insists it is "the duty" of Muslims to acquire a nuclear bomb in order to use "as much force as possible to terrorise the enemies of God"….

A 10 kiloton nuclear bomb would be a relatively small one by today's standards, but a 10 kiloton explosion in a city would mean that, from the centre of the blast for a distance of one third of a mile, every structure above ground level would be obliterated and every person would be killed instantly. For the next third of a mile, the city would look like the weird moonscape which Berlin had become by the end of World War Two, after almost a year of Allied bombing raids. And for a third of mile beyond that circle of hell, buildings and people would burn, both with flames and the effects of radiation.

To consider that outcome is to realise that it must be prevented. But how? Deterrence—the threat that if you detonate a nuclear bomb in our country, we will retaliate in kind on yours—has so far prevented nuclear war between nations. The only time nuclear bombs have been used, it was against a country without the capacity to retaliate.

Deterrence, however, depends on your enemy having cities and a population that can be threatened with obliteration. The problem is that terrorist organisations have neither. They are simply groups of individuals with no responsibility for, and no control over, a state or its population. Deterrence breaks down as a consequence….

Which means that the over-arching aim of the civilised world must be to ensure that they cannot get hold of a nuclear bomb, because that is the only way we can protect ourselves against nuclear terrorism…. Nuclear bombs are still, mercifully, beyond the capacity of terrorist groups to engineer for themselves: a terrorist organisation would have to get one from a government.

When the governments trying to acquire the technology for making nuclear bombs are known to train and supply Islamist terrorist groups—as Syria and Iran, for example, certainly do—the importance of preventing them obtaining the capacity to make such bombs is overwhelming. That is why the Israelis destroyed Syria's "not for peaceful means" nuclear facility last September, and why the rest of the world acquiesced in the destruction, which broke international law and had no United Nations resolution.

It is also why the US continues to send signals to Iran that it will not oppose, indeed might even join in, any attempt by Israel to hit Iran's fledgling nuclear facilities: sending precisely that signal must have been at least part of the point of last week's very public announcement that the Israeli raid on Syria's putative nuclear bomb factory had been successful.

Governments can perhaps be deterred from leaking nuclear weapons to terrorist groups by the thought of what the Americans would do to them if there were a nuclear explosion in an American city….

Governments, however, are not always able to control all their members….

If Iran builds a nuclear bomb factory, you can be sure that Israel will try to destroy it. You can also be sure that, when it happens, the rest of the world will not object.

Guest Comment: Is there no end to our madness and cowardice? When will we say enough is enough. We are allowing into Iran evey compoenent needed for a nuclear bomb. Wher are our leaders? Where is their courage and the duty to protect us?

Read the second article for the concesus in Israel.


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