The Iranian nuclear crisis keeps making the headlines. Last week Israel was warned not to strike Iran by several foreign leaders and officials and was threatened by Iran with a preemptive strike. This was followed this weekend by the publication of a new IAEA report about the Iranian nuclear program.
The IAEA report contained few facts that were not already published in the media. Iran is making significant progress in the field of uranium enrichment and refuses full cooperation with the nuclear watchdog.
A good example was the refusal to allow inspection of the Parchin site 30 kilometers south of Tehran. Parchin is a military complex where Iran is conducting production, research and development of ballistic rockets and high explosive materials that can be used to detonate a nuclear bomb.
Last Thursday another report dealing with the Iranian nuclear program was published by the influential Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). This report contained interesting new information that sheds new light on the existence of a covert nuclear program in Iran. Strangely enough the ISIS report received sparse media attention.
ISIS obtained 1600 telexes and other documents dealing with the activities of the Physics Research Center (PHRC) in Iran during the early nineties.
These documents show that contrary to what Iran suggested PHRC was not only dealing with defense preparedness and radiation detection. Instead PHRC focused on a wide range of nuclear technology such as uranium conversion, uranium exploration and heavy water production. The documents also shows that Iran’s ministery of defense was heavily involved in many aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and the research and development of nuclear weapons.
ISIS also reported that PHRC used the Sharif University in Tehran as a front to assist in outfitting a nuclear program and to obtain technology and parts for the program.
For example in November 1992 PHRC sought to buy a Hadland high speed ballistic range camera. This camera can be adapted for use in testing the initiation and detonation of high explosives (used in a nuclear device).
Iran razed the Lavisan Shian site that formerly housed the PHRC in 2004 before the IAEA was able to carry out environmental sampling which is used to uncover secret nuclear activities.
It is not known what happened to PHRC afterwards, but the IAEA reported in October 2011 that it had strong indications that PHRC continued its activities under the so called AMAD plan.
The New York Times last week published an article in which it reported that the 16 US intelligence agencies still stick to the assessment that there is no hard evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. This assessment first appeared in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NEI) and was reaffirmed in 2010.
However The Times also cited David Kay who was the head of the CIA team that searched for Iraq’s weapons programs after the US invasion.
He said the following about the ability to make a accurate assessment:
“They don’t have evidence that Iran has made a decision to build a bomb, and that reflects a real gap in the intelligence. It’s true the evidence hasn’t changed very much” since 2007, he added. “But that reflects a lack of access and a lack of intelligence as much as anything.”
The timing of this publication seems to indicate that – like the 2007 NEI which made military action against Iran by the Bush government all but impossible – this assessment is meant to generate pressure on Israel not to strike Iran.
The American assessment and the repeated warnings not to strike Iran clearly annoyed Israeli officials.
In an extensive interview with Israeli anchorman Nissim Mashal, minister of defense Ehud Barak declared that Israel will not put her destiny into the hands of even its best friends (a reference to the US).
Later Barak repeated this statement in somewhat different words when he said that “a people that desires life and lives in an environment like the Middle East is responsible for its own fate, even when this means that calculated risks need to be taken”.
Of course Barak is not the only one who decides on a military strike against Iran.
Barak, Netanyahu and other members of Israel’s security cabinet share one strong conviction: they are in office to stop Iran in its genocidal drive against Israel and to deny its obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Arutz 2 interview with Ehud Barak
However, this does not mean that an Israeli strike against Iran is imminent. Articles in the media suggesting otherwise are based solely on speculation. Middle East expert Professor Barry Rubin even called the flood of articles dealing with an Israeli strike ‘hysteria’.
In fact it is fair to assume that as long as Israeli officials talk about a strike on Iran, there will be no strike. The sole purpose of these statements is to generate political pressure on Iran.
This conclusion can be drawn from the earlier strikes on the Iraqi and the Syrian nuclear program. In both cases there was no talk and Israel’s allies and the media learned about it long after the Israeli fighter jets had returned to their basis.