Why are Iran’s nuclear ambitions so hard to understand?
An article I wrote in 2005 contained the following: “… Unfortunately, no matter the appearance of any agreement that might have been arrived at, Iran will not cease its efforts to become capable of being armed with nuclear weapons.” Nothing has changed since then, but the current White House insists on pretending that Iran’s ambition can be restrained by actions short of destruction of its nuclear development facilities.
It is as if no one on the National Security Council staff — or anywhere else in the defense establishment, for that matter — ever read or heard about the speech given in 1988 by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, then acting as commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (among other titles), that called for the construction of a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, this announcement had been approved by the late Imam Ruhollah Khomeini — an important historical precedent.
Rafsanjani’s statement was certainly not a surprise to the American intelligence establishment that had been tracking the Iranian nuclear ambition since the previous decade when the Shah Muhammed Reza Pahlevi was still in power. The Shah’s nuclear power program was begun in the 1970s even though the country’s vast oil and gas reserves were more than adequate to supply fuel for Iran’s electrical power requirements for many generations to come. The West German companies that originally were hired to build the first nuclear power plant at Bushere warned that the site was located in a known seismic fault area. Despite this warning, the project continued on.
Western intelligence at the time firmly believed the Shah’s vaunted nuclear power program would also provide cover for his own longed-for nuclear weapon capability. The ancient Persian dream of once again dominating the entire Middle East was then, as it is now, firmly imbedded in the Iranian psyche. Bolstering this broadly accepted opinion in modern Iran is the centuries old battle in the region for Shia minority supremacy over the majority Sunni. No matter which way one turns, the driving desire of Iranian leadership of all stripes has been to see their country nuclear armed.
It all seems so obvious it is a wonder that the Obama Administration persists in the charade of appearing to think it can stop or even inhibit Iran’s march toward obtaining nuclear weapons. The nonpartisan Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control has recently published a detailed report utilizing qualifications and projections made available through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This tracking indicates a reasonable estimate of Iranian accumulation of 116kg of the uranium isotope U-235 in its low enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF-6).
It is generally assumed 21.6kg of U-235 is necessary for the creation of a “first generation” implosion bomb. Again using IAEA calculations of a reasonable performance of Iran’s existing centrifuge evolution December 2008 through November 2011, Iran would have accumulated enough U-235 for the weaponizing of five implosion devices.
Some military analysts believe that the Iranians already have acquired enough enriched uranium of a quality to create several World War II Hiroshima-type basic nuclear bombs that can be delivered by air or sea to Israel. In other words, the Iranian military already is effectively nuclear-armed. What now awaits is an even higher grade enrichment and the perfection of placing the finished weapon on top of an adequate missile delivery system.
There are those within the Iranian hierarchy who believe it is tactically important to strike Israel before the Israelis strike Iran. Effectively, therefore, both sides (Israel and Iran) face the same fearful decision as to whether it is better (safer) to strike first and absorb the counter-strike rather than wait for the dubious advantage of being the injured party with a reduced ability to counter.
It should be remembered that Iran wants the “credit” for being the Islamic nation that is strongest against the continued existence of Israel. That has been its principal propaganda theme for the last thirty years. Just last month Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced in a major speech: “The Zionist regime is truly a cancerous tumor in this region and it must be, and will be, cut out.” There doesn’t seem to be much ambiguity in that statement, though Washington has made a considerable effort to ignore the clear portent.
No one would suggest that the Iranian clerical leadership lacks strategic awareness. On the contrary it would appear that threatening declarations such as the one just made by Ayatollah Khamenei are done with full awareness that the Israelis might respond with a preemptive attack or the threat of such. And does that not suggest that the Iranians must already have prepared themselves to launch their own preemption?
It’s logical that in wanting to be the leading opponent of an already nuclear-armed Israel, Iran would of necessity arm itself appropriately. It seems obvious that means as long as Tehran persists in threatening Israel, it must develop its own parallel nuclear weapon capability. Does the Administration really think further economic threats will divert Iran from its self-proclaimed righteous path as the Great Shia Savior opposing satanic Israel?
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H/T to National Review Online