On December 15th Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak approved the formation of a new operations force oriented to multidisciplinary missions far from Israel’s borders.
The force will be headed by Shai Avital a former commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal special missions unit of the IDF. Avital will return to the military to fill the position, Ha’aretz reported.
Defense News reported the following: “The force will integrate elite commando units into a single special operations command for counter terror, anti-smuggling, anti-proliferation and other operations beyond its immediate and intermediate circles of enemy states.
Israel’s military censor did not allow reference to these outer circle states, but foreign sources have defined them to include Iran and countries lining the Horn of Africa”.
High grade uranium
The move came at the same day news surfaced that Iran is set to launch high grade uranium enrichment in an underground facility deep inside a mountain at Fordow near Qom. The new development will likely add to tension between Tehran and the West.
The news site Gulf in the Media interviewed nuclear proliferation expert Shannon Kile of SIPRI, The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who said:
“Obviously, for people who are concerned about Iran’s ability to break out (of the NPT) and to enrich to weapons-grade (uranium) this is a pretty good step along that route.”
Gulf in the Media furthermore reported: “Tehran says it will use 20%-enriched uranium to convert into fuel for a research reactor making isotopes to treat cancer patients, but Western officials say they doubt that the country has the technical capability to do that.
Western experts say tightening sanctions, technical hurdles and possible cyber sabotage have slowed Iran’s atomic advances.
But it is still amassing low-enriched uranium and now has enough for 2-4 bombs, if refined much more, the experts say.
Iran has also stepped up development work of more advanced centrifuge models that would enable it to enrich uranium faster than with the breakdown-prone IR-1 machines it is now using, the diplomatic sources said.
At a research facility in Natanz, it has started feeding a network of some 160 so-called IR-2m centrifuges with uranium hexafluoride gas to test their performance.
If Iran eventually succeeds in introducing the more modern machines for production, it could significantly shorten the time needed to stockpile enriched uranium.”
The Jerusalem Post yesterday quoted anonymous US officials who said that Iran might be only weeks away from enrichment of high grade uranium. The paper also quoted Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
She said: “Senior advisers to US President Barack Obama privately express concern that Israel might see Iran’s commencement of the Fordow facility as a justification for a military strike”.
She also said that some White House officials fear that Iran is provoking an Israeli strike in a bid to rally support at home and abroad.
Iran is obviously not impressed by the new sanctions imposed by the West, as Professor Barry Rubin points out in an new article about Obama’s policy towards Iran, the regime doesn’t think the disadvantages of pursuing a nuclear weapon are larger that the advantages.
He writes that there should be a ‘coherent strategic (international) campaign to counter Iranian influence on every level’.
It is highly doubtful that such a campaign will ever materialize, as became clear from another report today.
Fars news reported that India is preempting possible oil sanctions on Iran by exploring the option of payment via Russian banks.