by David Meir-Levi
In dealing with the threat of a nuclear Iran, Obama has not merely kicked the proverbial can down the proverbial road; he has actually aided and abetted Iran in its quest for military nuclear capabilities.
Such a grim assessment of Obama’s Iran policy is unavoidable in light of his inaction against Iran for its capture of the RQ-170 stealth drone in December of last year; his silence over Iran’s initiation of 20% uranium enrichment at the underground Fordo facility near Qom; his reluctance to send U.S. aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf through the Straits of Hormuz; his hesitation in approving immediate sanctions on Iran’s central bank and energy sector; his silence as Hugo Chavez allies with Iran to develop terrorist and missile bases in Venezuela; his secret attempt to influence Congress to soften US sanctions; and his secret letter of appeasement to Iran. These inactions are incomprehensible and unforgivable because they have allowed Iran to reach the threshold of becoming a nuclear threat to the entire world.
What can now be done? All the options are bad. Sanctions have slowed Iran’s progress but not stopped it. Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would certainly inflict crippling pain and would set back Iran’s WMD quest by a year or so; but this course of action brings with it risks of regional upheaval and war, global economic disruption, and Iran-sponsored terror attacks on US and Israeli targets anywhere in the world. On the other hand, not stopping Iran from bringing the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust has obvious consequences of an even more dire and perilous nature.
How can any country, any national or international leader, dissolve this Gordian knot of similarly evil alternatives? Israel may have the answer, without an airstrike.
Since 2005 various parts of the Iranian nuclear project have been hit by a series of disasters, which Iran blames on the West, and especially Israel.1
In April 2006, two transformers blew up and 50 centrifuges were ruined during Iran’s first attempt to enrich uranium at Natantz. A spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Council stated that the raw materials had been “tampered with.”
Between January 2006 and July 2007, three airplanes belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards crashed under mysterious circumstances. Some reports said the planes had simply “stopped working.”
“Stopped working” was also the Iranian explanation for two lethal computer viruses that penetrated the nuclear project’s computer system in 2007, knocking out a large number of centrifuges.
In January 2007, several insulation units in the connecting fixtures of the centrifuges, which were purchased on the black market from suppliers in Eastern Europe, turned out to be flawed and unusable. Iran concluded that some of these suppliers were actually straw companies that were set up by Iran’s enemies to outfit the Iranian nuclear effort with faulty parts.
In January 2007, Dr. Ardeshir Husseinpour, a 44-year-old nuclear scientist, died under mysterious circumstances. The official announcement said he died in a “work accident,” but Iranian intelligence blames Israel.
Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a particle physicist, was killed in January 2010, when a booby-trapped motorcycle parked nearby exploded as he was getting into his car. Some analysts harbor the suspicion that Mohammadi was killed by Iranian agents because of his support for the Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, but Iran blames Israel.
In June 2010, reports surfaced that the computer system operating the uranium enrichment site of Natanz had been infected with a new and more powerful cyber-weapon, a deadly virus known as “Stuxnet.” A highly sophisticated, incredibly invasive, but surgically refined virus, Stuxnet infected 59% of Iran’s computers but targeted only those using the Siemens SCADA software used by Iranian nuclear facilities. Contrary to Iranian denials, analysts confirmed that this cyber-attack delayed Iran’s WMD progress by at least several years and forced 984 centrifuges off-line.
In July 2011, a motorcyclist ambushed Darioush Rezaei Nejad, a nuclear physicist and a researcher for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, shooting him as he sat in his car outside of his house.
In November 2011, a huge explosion occurred at a Revolutionary Guards base 30 miles west of Tehran. Satellite photos showed that almost the entire base was obliterated. Brig. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ missile-development division, was killed, along with 16 of his personnel. This was the military base where the long-range (10,000 km) missiles were being developed for deployment against the Western Hemisphere. Israeli experts suggest that it was a “work accident” resulting from improperly handled munitions.
And this “work accident” was soon followed by “Duqu” (aka “son of ‘Stuxnet’”), a cyber-weapon which invaded Iranian nuclear facility computers in December 2011, and created secret “back doors” so that the computer programs could be seized and manipulated later to alter networks, create destructive programs, or even destroy the entire networks themselves.
On Jan. 11, 2012, Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, a deputy director at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility, was killed when motorcyclists attached a magnet bomb to his car, in downtown Tehran. Some find these assassinations reprehensible, others acknowledge the need to do what it takes to stop Iran from becoming the world’s next nuclear enemy.
Current assessments suggest that Iran will not be able to manufacture a deployable nuclear weapon before 2015, thanks in large part to the clandestine efforts summarized above.2
But even these successful covert operations, and perhaps another Stuxnet somewhere in the offing, cannot succeed forever, and at best they merely slow the progress of the current Iranian government, so ferociously committed to nuclear confrontation with the Sunni world and the West. So this approach, successful though it has been, is just a different iteration of kicking the can down the road. Even combined with the most stringent of sanctions, it only pushes the problem further into the not-too-distant future.
But there is a way, and it may be the only way, to achieve a long-term resolution to the Iranian nuclear threat: regime change. Iranian anti-Mullah sources, inside Iran and abroad, suggest that the Iranian people are ready for a more pro-Western regime to replace the Mullahs. The MEK (People’s Mujahedin of Iran) believe that such a change could occur within one year, and some Israeli leaders concur.
But instead of supporting regime change from within, Obama has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. When Obama turned a blind eye to the massacre of unarmed protesters in Iran in 2009, he supported the Mullahs and encouraged their quest for WMDs. When he turned a blind eye to the massacre of unarmed protesters in Syria, ongoing since early 2011, he handed Iran another victory by allowing the Iranian puppet government in Syria to prolong its stay in power, and thus to serve Iran’s interests, support Hezbollah and maintain proxy control over Lebanon.
Now Obama is trying to pressure Israel to commit to not mounting a conventional weapons bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.3 Is that because he wants the blame to settle squarely on Israel, and Israel alone, if Israel does bomb Iran, so that his hands can be clean, prior to November 2012, of any blame for whatever catastrophes such an attack might cause; or is it because Obama really believes that a nuclear Iran will be better for the world’s health?
In either case, Israel does not trust Obama, and is not bowing to his pressure. But neither is Israel about to launch a conventional bombing attack on Iran. Israel’s clandestine attacks have successfully delayed Iran’s nuclear ambition for at least several years into the future: plenty of time for regime change, in Iran or in the USA in November 2012.
1. Except as otherwise noted, the summary list which follows utilizes material from Ronen Bergman’s “Will Israel attack Iran?” New York Times, January 25, 2012 at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/magazine/will-israel-attack-iran.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all; and http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/nuke3.htm.
2. For assessments see: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/iran/nuclear_program/index.html; and http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/world/middleeast/08israel.html; and http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/07/us-iran-nuclear-israel-idUSTRE70612X20110107; and http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/outgoing-mossad-chief-iran-won-t-have-nuclear-capability-before-2015-1.335656; inter alia.
3. For examples see: http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/02/panetta-believes-israel-could-strike-iran-this-spring/; and http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2106071,00.html; and http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/02/west-making-case-to-israel-dont-attack-iran/; and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2095799/West-scrambles-avoid-Israeli-attack-Iran-come-months.html; inter alia.David Meir-Levi
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.