Latest Iranian nuclear developments
Jul 30, 2008 | AIJAC staff
Update from AIJAC
July 30, 2008
Number 07/08 #08
Today’s Update leads with a report from Middle East media monitoring organisation MEMRI <http://www.memri.org> that summarises two articles from Kuwaiti newspapers alleging Iran is building a secret nuclear reactor in the south west of the country. According to the report, Iran has expropriated land from “thousands” of its Arab citizens, and was attempting to keep international attention away from the site. To read this important report, CLICK HERE <#Article_1> .
As more and more commentators ponder the likelihood and potential ramifications of an American or Israeli attack on Iran, the US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates has said <http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1005910.html> war with Iran would be “disastrous on a number of levels.” However, he went on to say, “the military option must be kept on the table, given the destabilising policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat, either directly or through nuclear proliferation.” Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told <http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331128300&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull> him that Iran was putting the entire world at risk. Ralph Peters has written an opinion piece entitled “What ‘Bomb Iran’ really takes” in the New York Post. He looks at the likely consequences of an attack on Iran and outlines what would have to be done to minimise these consequences and ensure a successful outcome, should the US realise it has no choice but to militarily prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability. To read this fascinating and important insight, CLICK HERE <#Article_2> .
The Jerusalem Post has an in-depth update <http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331139278&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull> on Germany’s financial dealings with Iran, and wonders how German Chancellor Angela Merkel could have said in Israel in May “Germany will push for further sanctions” against Iran. This comes as the deadline for the latest offer to Iran on suspension of enrichment approaches. Ynet has a good overview of the situation here <http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3566491,00.html> , while the Jerusalem Post has a profile of Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator here <http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331104100&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull> .
Finally, the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius summarises – and analyses – all the talks that are happening around the Middle East at the moment. For this clarifying article, CLICK HERE <#Article_3> .
Readers may also be interested in:
- Israeli officials have claimed <http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331102917&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull> Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent assertion of possessing 6,000 centrifuges is untrue.
- The Iranian Fars News Agency writes about a recent Chinese-Iranian deal to exploit <http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8705071102> the North Pars gas field, and how the Iranian finance minister defends <http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8705071266> his country’s plan to stop energy subsidies.
- Michael Ledeen, in the National Review Online, suggests <http://article.nationalreview.com/print/?q=Yzk4MjQwMzMxMGJiZDY5OTg2M2JlODFmZWUyOGE2ZWY=> that Iran isn’t as stable as most people make it out to be.
- Ahmadinejad blames <http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331135767&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull> the West for AIDS.
- Outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman speaks <http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3573072,00.html> to Ynet about his time in New York. Also, the Jerusalem Post summarises Gillerman’s performance, and describes his replacement, Gabriela Shalev, here <http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331116488&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull> .
- A speech <http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=2911> by former Islamist Maajid Nawaz entitled “The Way Back from Islamism,” and an article <http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,565750,00.html> in German newspaper Der Spiegel on Islamists defecting from violent jihad.
- An article <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article4425820.ece> from the Times about how routs in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing Islamists into other places, notably northern Africa.
- Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha told <http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1006229.html> Americans for Peace Now that his country is interested in securing a peace agreement with Israel. His boss, Syrian Foreign Minister Waled al-Muallem, went to Iran, where Ahmadinejad pledged <http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3575128,00.html> to strengthen the ties between Iran and Syria, despite the latter’s ongoing indirect negotiations with Israel.
- A paper from the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies arguing <http://www.besacenter.org/docs/perspectives47.pdf> that American power is not declining, as many are suggesting.
- Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak gives <http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3539301,00.html> a wide-ranging interview to Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.
Kuwaiti Daily Reveals: Iran Building Secret Nuclear Reactor
MEMRI Special Dispatch Series – No. 2006, July 29, 2008
On July 29, 2008, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa reported that, according to “highly reliable sources,” Iranian authorities had begun construction of a secret nuclear reactor in the Al-Zarqan region close to the city of Ahwaz in southwest Iran, on the Iran-Iraq border.
The paper said that according to sources, Iran was working to distance its nuclear installations from international oversight. The English version of the report, published in the Kuwaiti Arab Times, said, “Disclosing [that] Tehran directed international A-bomb inspectors to other places, sources warned [that] the project poses a very serious threat to international security.”
Also according to the sources, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) did not know about this site at all, since it was not included in negotiations with Iran in Geneva held in early July.
According to the report, the sources said that during 2000-2003, Iran expropriated the lands and homes of thousands of Arab citizens from the Al-Zarqan region, destroying homes of thousands of Arab citizens from the Al-Zarqan region.
Destroyed homes, fields, orchards, and wells, and built a three-meter-high wall around the project site, which allegedly measures hundreds of kilometers.
The report also said that “the construction of the reactor began with the laying of a pipeline for fresh water from the [nearby] KarounRiver to the site, and the expansion of the Al-Zarqan power station.”
Also, the sources said that “the construction works seem to be routine and do not arouse attention, but the tight security around the region is what arouses suspicions regarding the nature of the work.” They added that the site is guarded by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) personnel, reflecting its importance and sensitivity.
Following is a summary of the Al-Siyassa report,  and from its English  version in the Kuwaiti English-language daily Arab Times, which was also published July 29, 2008.
In its report, Al-Siyassa included a letter dated April 7, 2008 from the office of the assistant of IRGC commander in Al-Ahwaz city Brig. Hassan Jalaliyan, marked “highly confidential,” to Mohammed Kayafir, manager of the Mehab Qudus Company for Construction and Supervision, which is building the reactor. The following is a translation of the letter:
“From the IRGC Commander in the city of Al-Ahwas to the director in charge at the Mehab Qudus company for Construction and Supervision Mr. Mohammed Kayafir
“Re: The nuclear reactor at Al-Zarqan
“I thank you for the good services of the Mehab Qudus company, and at the same time I must remind you of the following items:
“1. All construction materials must be transported from the warehouses to the construction site in top secrecy.
“2. As part of the doctrine of caution, we reiterate yet again that during the transport of all required materials, you must ensure that this [transport] does not arouse the suspicions of any citizen in the region through which you are moving.
“3. In general, it is absolutely forbidden to hire any Arabic speakers or any citizen from Khozestan in the framework of the ‘Al-Zarqan Nuclear Reactor’ construction project. You must ensure that all manpower, including the driver, the accountant, the warehouse manager, the laborer, the technician, or the guard, comes from the northern provinces.
“In conclusion, we say yet again that all the construction work in this project must be carried out under absolute secrecy.
“From the aide to IRGC commander in the city of Al-Ahwaz, Hassan Jalaliyan.”
Al-Siyassa also reported that the “National Society for Arabstan State took satellite pictures of the location, which looked perfect for the construction of a secret nuclear reactor…” It added, “The site is more suitable for building a nuclear reactor than Bushehr, which is close to American bases.” It noted that a nuclear power plant under construction at Darkhovin is in an open area on the main road between Ahwaz and Abadan – while the “Al-Zarqan nuclear reactor is in the middle of very highly populated areas, making it a very difficult target due to a possibility that the Iranian authorities will use civilians as human shields.”
On January 31, 2008, the Iran Daily wrote that Iranian Atomic Energy Organization deputy head Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh had said that the nuclear power plant at Darkhovin, in southwestern Iran, would become operational in 2016. 
 Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), July 29, 2008, http://www.alseyassah.com/news_details.asp?snapt=الأولى&nid=23454 <http://www.alseyassah.com/news_details.asp?snapt=%3F%3F%3F%3F%3F%3F&nid=23454> .
 Arab Times (Kuwait), July 29, 2008, http://www.arabtimesonline.com/kuwaitnews/pagesdetails.asp?nid=20349&ccid=9 <http://www.arabtimesonline.com/kuwaitnews/pagesdetails.asp?nid=20349&ccid=9> (the text has been lightly edited for clarity).
 Iran Daily (Iran), January 31, 2008, http://www.iran-daily.com/1386/3052/pdf/i2.pdf.
What ‘Bomb Iran’ Really Takes
Ralph Peters, New York Post, July 17, 2008
MY greatest worry on Iran’s nuclear threat to civilization isn’t the military option. It’s trying that option on the cheap.
If there’s any way to block Tehran’s pursuit of nukes short of warfare, I’m all for it. Maybe yesterday’s dispatch of the No. 3 US diplomat to observe the European Union’s talks with the mullahs about their nukes will work a miracle (don’t hold your breath).
Military strikes must be the last resort. Even a successful attack would panic oil markets, interrupt supplies to an unknown degree and make enemies of the Iranian people for another generation.
But the fanatics in Tehran may leave us no peaceful alternative. In that case, the most disastrous thing we could do would be to launch an economy-model attack.
If forced to strike, we have to do it right. When safe-at-home ideologues bluster, “Just bomb ’em,” they haven’t a clue how complex this problem is.
Nor is there any chance that the Israelis could handle Iran on their own (their recent air-force exercise was psychological warfare). As skilled as their pilots and planners may be, the Israelis lack the capacity to sustain a strategic offensive against Iran – or to deal with the inevitable mess they’d leave behind in the Persian Gulf. Israel’s aircraft could do serious damage to Iran’s nuke program, but the US military would face the potentially catastrophic aftermath.
Without compromising any secrets – the Iranians already know what we’d need to do – here are the basic requirements for smacking down Iran’s nuke program:
* Take out Iran’s air-defense and intelligence network to protect our attacking aircraft.
* Take down its national communications network to degrade its military reaction.
* Strike dozens of dispersed nuclear-related targets – some of them in hardened underground facilities, with others purposely placed in populated areas.
* Hit every anti-ship-missile installation along Iran’s Persian Gulf coast and the Straits of Hormuz. The reflexive Iranian response to an attack would be to launch sea-skimmer missiles against oil tankers and Western warships. The Iranians know that oil’s now the world’s Achilles heel.
* Destroy Iran’s naval capacity, including small craft, in the first 24 hours to prevent attacks on shipping (expect suicide attacks, too).
* Immediately take out all of Iran’s long-range and intermediate-range missiles – not just those that could strike Israel, but those that could hit Saudi, gulf-state or Iraqi oil refineries, pipelines, port facilities and oil fields . . . or our installations in the region.
* Hit the military’s key command centers in Tehran, as well as regional headquarters, with special attention to the Revolutionary Guards’ infrastructure.
* Expect three to six weeks of intense air and naval fighting, followed by months of skirmishing and asymmetrical warfare. And Iraq will heat back up, too.
Screw up the effort, and today’s oil prices will double or triple, with severe downstream shortages showing up in a matter of weeks – every oil tanker’s insurance will be canceled immediately, even if the Straits of Hormuz remain open (unlikely).
And we’ll be in the global doghouse.
Gimme-my-war chumps of the sort who believed “dissident” Ahmed Chalabi on Iraq insist that, if we weaken the Tehran regime by attacking, the Iranian people will overthrow it.
Yes, many Iranians detest their killer-bumpkin president. But plenty of Americans despise our president – yet, if our homeland were attacked tomorrow, most would rally behind him. And we’d fight back. The Iranians would respond the same way.
If a war did spark regime change, the new government might well be even harder-line. Nobody likes to be bombed – and serious attacks on Iran’s nuclear program would kill a lot of Iranians.
Yet it’d be even worse if we tried to hit Iran on the cheap, in some think-tank-concocted Shock and Awe Part II. “Precision” attacks – limited to air-defense sites and nuclear facilities – would draw a swift and painful Iranian response against the Gulf’s oil exports.
And one last worry: If we decide we have no choice but to attack, we’re so casualty-averse that our civilian leadership is apt to put critical targets off-limits to spare Iranian lives. We still want to win wars without hurting anybody, by just breaking the other guy’s toys. And that’s never going to happen.
If we have to fight, we have to fight to win.
Take down Iran’s nuke program? I’m damned certain of one thing: If we start this one, we’d better get it right from the first shot.
Ralph Peters’ new book is “Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”
Talking Into the Sunset
David Ignatius, Washington Post, Thursday, July 24, 2008
It’s the season for peace talks in the Middle East, as the region watches the clock and waits for the departure of the Bush administration. Some of what’s going on is real and some of it is illusion, but to a student of diplomatic intrigue all of it is interesting. So here’s a brief guide to the Syrian and Iranian negotiating tracks:
First, the Syrians. Though they are technically in a state of war with Israel, these two bosom enemies (to borrow a phrase from journalist Barbara Slavin) have been conducting a surprisingly robust round of negotiations through Turkish intermediaries. We Americans like to think that people should either talk or fight, but the wily politicians in Damascus and Jerusalem understand that in real life, nations often pursue a combination of the two. They need each other, the way the Joker needs Batman.
So the Syrians have kept up a dialogue even as the Israelis destroyed what they claimed was a secret nuclear reactor. Welcome to the Middle East.
The first surprise about this diplomacy is that it has been underway for so long: Contacts through the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan began early this decade. They became serious during the Lebanon war in the summer of 2006, when the Syrians and the Israelis used Turkey to pass crucial messages about “red lines” that had to be preserved to avert a wider conflict. Despite American misgivings, the dialogue continued that September, after the war ended.
Syrian and Israeli negotiators have explored issues in four categories — borders, water rights, security and normalization of relations. A breakthrough came early this year, after the Syrians attended the Annapolis peace conference: Both sides accepted as starting points for their discussions the agreements that had been reached in these four areas during intensive bilateral negotiations brokered by the Clinton administration.
According to Syrian sources, agreement is close in three areas. On water rights, both sides tentatively endorse a suggestion made by then-President Bill Clinton to delineate a common water basin used by Syria, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon; on borders, the Syrians insist that they must regain the Golan Heights, but they recognize that the Sea of Galilee, a crucial marker of the old border, has shrunk over the past 40 years. Thus, compromises are possible that maintain Syrian sovereignty but allow Israeli access.
Similarly, on security matters, the tentative agreements reached in the late 1990s would resolve most of the remaining outstanding disputes. On normalization, the icing on the cake, little progress has been made.
The Syrians have shown no interest in discussing the disputed territory known as Shebaa Farms, since a withdrawal of the Israelis from this area would remove the last pretext for Hezbollah’s role as a “resistance” that fights to recover Israeli-occupied land. Hezbollah is a hornet’s nest, so the Syrians want to set aside this issue for later.
I asked a Syrian friend how to describe the negotiating style of President Bashar al-Assad, and he answered with an Arabic expression, “shaarat Muawiyah,” which literally means the hair of Muawiyah, the first Umayyad caliph of Damascus. Muawiyah, it’s said, understood that if you pull the hair too hard, you lose it, and if you’re too gentle, you lose it as well. So he’s in the middle — cunning, cautious, between hard and soft.
As for the Iranians, a Lebanese friend speaks of their recent cocky behavior by using an Arabic expression that translates roughly as “steam in the head.” They are floating on a sense of their own power; they are luxuriating in a Persian hammam.
In this frame of mind, the Iranians attended a ballyhooed meeting last Saturday in Geneva that, some analysts hoped, might launch a “freeze for freeze” package that would allow “pre-negotiations” between Iran and the permanent representatives of the U.N. Security Council, to be followed by actual negotiations in which Iran would suspend enrichment of uranium.
Did Iran respond with a clear yes-or-no answer? Of course not. Instead it brought a two-page “non-paper” that called for three sets of consultative meetings, to be followed perhaps by six weeks of preliminary talks, to be followed in theory (but almost surely not in fact) by actual negotiations.
What’s the Iranian position? With “steam in the head,” Tehran wants to convey the appearance of flexibility but isn’t yet ready to negotiate seriously. The Iranians’ watchword remains a guarded “maybe.” Meanwhile, they watch the clock ticking away and wonder what kind of games they can play with Barack Obama.