Today, the N.Y. Times reports that the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA has confirmed that Iran now has enough uranium fuel to produce a nuclear weapon. However, it does not yet have the capability to deliver one. The timing of this revelation in quite propitious for the anti-Iran hawks inside the Obama administration and Israel. In fact, the Times report rather extraordinarily concedes that the document specifically does this:
The statement by the ambassador, Glyn Davies, was intended to add weight to arguments for far more severe sanctions against Iran this month, perhaps including a cutoff of gasoline to the country, if the country failed to take up Mr. Obama’s invitation for direct negotiations. But it could also complicate the administration’s efforts to convince an increasingly impatient Israeli government to give diplomacy more time to work. Israel has made it clear it would consider a military strike against Iran’s facilities..
There are two ways to parse this development. Either the Dennis Rosses within the administration want to exert pressure in the upcoming policy review to get their way and exert punishing pressure on Iran; or Obama himself is seeking to use this announcement as a cudgel to pressure what is left of the pragmatists within the Iranian government to come to the table and negotiate. Either development is worrying because there is the 800 lb. gorilla of the IAF lurking in the background and eager to fly off and bomb Teheran the moment it gets the say-so from Bibi, who is no doubt delighted at this news. His trigger is no doubt inching that much closer to the trigger.
Haaretz reports that Bibi made a “secret” (nothing ever stays secret for long in Israel) trip to Moscow within recent days (keep in mind that Pres. Shimon Peres also made such a hastily scheduled visit the day after the Arctic Sea was liberated). Netanyahu didn’t even tell the Israeli ambassador in Moscow he was coming and refused to allow his foreign or defense ministers to accompany him. He surely visited to discuss something related to Iran. Israel has made known its displeasure at the prospect that Russian missiles may protect Iranian nuclear facilities. This would harden those sites and make it that much more difficult for Israeli war planes to take them out. Russia is also a contractor in building some Iranian nuke sites. Wouldn’t it have been interesting to be a fly on the Kremlin’s wall for that meeting? But one wonders what Israel has to offer Russia that would cause it to withhold sophisticated defensive missile systems from Iran.
Israeli intelligence is raising the alarm with the unsubstantiated claim that Iran has renewed its program to design a delivery vehicle. But the U.S. disputes this:
Israeli’s government disputes the American assessment that Iran’s weapons design work has been suspended for nearly six years. In classified exchanges, it has cited evidence that the design effort resumed in 2005, at the order of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. American officials say that evidence is circumstantial, and point out that the Israelis have not produced a copy of the order or other convincing evidence.
…In the 2007 intelligence estimate, the United States said that it had found evidence that Iran had worked on making a warhead, though it said the project was stopped in late 2003. The new intelligence information finds no convincing evidence that the design work has resumed.
While the thought of Iran developing nuclear weapons is chilling and should be opposed, we must remain sober about where we really are in this process. Israel will use every means at its disposal to convince us that the sky is about to fall. But we should remember the Chicken Little story. The sky is not about to fall. It may be quite stormy and we must take notice of this. But the catastrophe predicted is not about to happen.
We should remember that Israeli intelligence is notoriously result oriented, beset with the same malady inflicted on U.S. intelligence by the Cheney war cabal: get to the result the policymakers want. Virtually every major intelligence pronouncement from the Israelis needs to be pored over with a fine-tooth comb to discover the difference between truth and wish.
Tomorrow, American Jewish hawks will be “flying in” to D.C. for a lobbying blitz on the Hill to bolster get-tough demands concerning Iran. Peace Now’s Debra DeLee published a strong critique of the anti-Iranian lobbying effort in JTA which should be read by everyone concerned about this issue.