Iran winning on Nuke issue
US president Barack Obama's tough talk of sanctions has melted into soft soap for luring Iran into further dialogue. Adopting the reverse tactic, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sounds almost reasonable for a change, even as Tehran pushes its revolutionary goals as pugnaciously as ever.
DEBKAfile's Washington sources disclose Saturday, Dec. 19 that official US warnings that Washington's patience is running out and tough sanctions are imminent are no more than a smokescreen for three major steps embarked on by the Obama administration in the last four days for dragging out sanctions and setting back military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave the US president another six months for diplomacy without the threat of military action when they met at the White House November 9. The first six months' grace runs out at the end of Dec. 2009. The second ends in mid-2010. Netanyahu was backed up by defense minister Ehud Barak who said Monday, Dec. 14: "There is still time for diplomatic action to stop Iran.”
Using the respite, our sources report that the US president offered three inducements for tempting Tehran to call off its military program:
1. Whereas Tuesday, Dec. 15, Congress approved penalties for firms selling Iran gasoline and the insurance companies underwriting its sale, the following day, the influential senator John Kerry announced through his spokesman Frederic Jones that the Foreign Relations Committee, which he heads, "needs time to consider the bill."
2. Friday, Dec. 17, Pentagon spokeswoman Tara Rigler announced a six-month delay in deploying the precision-guided, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator or "bunker buster" bomb (developed specifically for the nuclear facilities Iran and North Korea have sunk deep under ground).
"Funding delays and enhancements to the planned test schedule have pushed the capability availability date to Dec. 2010," she announced.
Only five months ago, in August, the US Air Force announced that the 15-ton bomb for delivery by B-2 stealth bombers had been funded and would be ready for service in July 2010.
Washington is thus offering Tehran another six months to play with, free of threat of sanctions and safe from the bombardment of its subterranean nuclear facilities.
3. Over the weekend beginning Friday, Dec. 18, Israeli newspaper correspondents briefed by administration officials ran stories denigrating Mossad director Meir Dagan as the only Israeli official hold-out on the need to attack Iran. He is presented as being in the grip of a fixation detrimental to his handling of other key issues. One editorial advised the Israeli government to learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
But the Obama administration's lures had at least one result: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking from the Copenhagen climate conference, said:
"Everything is possible, 400 kilos, 800 kilos, it's nothing," for enrichment abroad, "but not in a climate where they threaten us. From the outset, delivery of 1,200 kilos of uranium was not a problem for us, but if they believe they can wave a stick to threaten us, those days are over. They have to change their vocabulary to respect and legality."
While preaching to others about sticks, the Iranian president must have thought the big sticks Tehran waved in the last four days alone were invisible.
Wednesday, Dec. 12, Tehran launched an improved Sejil 2 missile which DEBKAfile's military sources confirm is capable of penetrating US and Israeli anti-missile defense shields and defying their interceptors, although US and Israeli sources were at pains to play down its capabilities. Those sources report that Sejil-2 is loaded with electronic chips used as decoys to mislead the electronic systems of the Israeli Arrow 2 and the US Patriot, Aegis and THAAD anti-missile missile systems.
Only last week, furthermore, Tehran signed a new military pact with Syria, roping in the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas as second-strike wielders; Wednesday, the "Iranian Cyber Army" hacked into Twitter and filled its home page with anti-US slogans; for most of December, Iran-backed Yemeni rebels have kept Saudi and government forces on the run and, Friday, Iranian soldiers seized control of an Iraqi oil well in a disputed border region.
All the same, Obama's beckoning gestures and Ahmadinejad's smooth response indicate a fresh round of talks will be explored between the 5P+1 bloc (five Security Council permanent members plus Germany) and Iran before sanctions are broached or either the US or Israel resort to military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.
This means that Washington's determined ultimatum to Iran to comply with its international obligations by the end of 2009 has been extended by a whole year - an extra six months granted by Israeli up to June 2010 and another six months which President Obama tagged on himself in order to further delay an Israeli attack on Iran.
By then, it will all be over: Tehran will have attained a nuclear weapon plus the means of delivery.
Saturday, an Iranian military spokesman declared: "Our forces are on our own soil, and based on the known international borders this well belongs to Iran."
It is not hard to imagine how Tehran will comport itself once it has "the bomb."
BOLTON: Well, I'll just underline the reason to be alarmist. If the rest of the world sees that North Korea can keep its nuclear weapons, they see that Iran is capable of defying United States and getting nuclear weapons, they see Hugo Chavez still completely unplugged and growing closer and closer to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran -- let's not forget Venezuela has its own uranium deposits -- then the lesson, I think, for would-be proliferators around the world is clear. You can get nuclear weapons, and the United States and others will not act to stop you.
And if those constraints don't have any force, then I think we're going to see a lot more countries with nuclear weapons, and I think that raises the risk of global instability by an enormous factor.