It always seems that just when there is a lull in news of geopolitcal tension, we get an update that the Iranian situation gets that more unstable. After a nearly year long hiatus brought courtesy of allegedly Israeli supervirus Stuxnet taking out Iran's entire nuclear infrastructure offline for many months, the topic of Iran's nuclear capability is once again back, and starting to stink up the join. The NYT has just reported that in an attempt to preempt a possible air strike by the US or Israel, "Iran is moving its most critical nuclear fuel production to a heavily defended underground military facility outside the holy city of Qum, where it is less vulnerable to attack from the air and, the Iranians hope, the kind of cyberattack that crippled its nuclear program, according to intelligence officials." Not surprisingly, Iran has ceased any ties with the US in terms of nuclear fuel delivery: "We will no longer negotiate a fuel swap and a halt to our production of fuel,” head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, Fereydoon Abbasi said “The United States is not a safe country with which we can negotiate a fuel swap or any other issue." Well, it took the US minutes to respond: "Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that the Iranian plan “to install and operate centrifuges at Qum,” in a facility whose existence President Obama and Europeans leaders made public two years ago, “is a violation of their United Nations security obligations and another provocative act." Next up: an update of US Naval assets in the just passed week. Time to start focusing on those Straits of Hormuz again.
From the NYT:
The head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, Fereydoon Abbasi, spoke about the transfer in general terms on Monday to an official Iranian news service. He boasted that his country would produce the fuel in much larger quantities than it needs for a small research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.
The fact that Iran is declaring that its production will exceed its needs has reinforced the suspicions of many American and European intelligence officials that Iran plans to use the fuel to build weapons or to train Iranian scientists to produce bomb-grade fuel.
The time for "Kinetic" options is coming:
The officials involved in the discussions about Iran said the Bush White House asked the Central Intelligence Agency in the summer of 2008 to assess the feasibility of covert action to blow up or disable crucial elements of Iran’s nuclear facilities. But when the agency delivered the plans, they were quickly rejected, all the officials said, for fear that any kind of obvious attack on the facilities could touch off another conflict in the Middle East just as a new American president was assuming office.
The options were developed in part to assess whether a physical attack on the facilities would be significantly more effective than more subtle — and deniable — sabotage of the Iranian facilities, including cyberattacks. That presentation and subsequent discussions led to a detailed exploration of Iran’s vulnerability to a sophisticated cyberattack.
“There were a range of options from the highly kinetic to the other end of the scale,” one former official involved in the decision-making said, using the military’s jargon for the use of physical force against a target. The officials who described the discussions would not speak of the specific operations under consideration, which remain classified, but said that the Obama transition team had been fully briefed on the possibilities.
The only question is how hard will Israel push this time:
Early in 2008, the officials said, the United States denied a request from Israel for equipment that might have helped mount an air attack.
Vice President Dick Cheney was known to be a strong advocate of direct action against the facilities, either through covert means or by helping Israel build up its capability to strike. Mr. Cheney does not discuss the issue in his new memoir, published this week, other than to say that he favored an American military strike against Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007, partly as a warning to Iran.
So just in time for the re-depression, time for war is here. Right on schedule.
And now, as promised, here is the updated US naval map.