Category Archive 'Iranian Nuclear Threat'
17 Jul 2015

Negotiations Went Smoothly

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DeathtoAmerica

27 Nov 2013

This Time The Truth

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07 Feb 2012

Iran Has Missiles Which Can Reach the US and is Ready to Build Nuclear Weapon

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DEBKAfile recently leaked the background information behind the currently ongoing preparations for an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear weapon facilities.

Iran has completed the development of a nuclear weapon and awaits nothing more than a sign from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to start assembling its first nuclear bomb, said Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Major General Aviv Kochavi on Thursday, February 2. Assembling a bomb would take up to a year, Kochavi estimated. With 100 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent grade and another 4 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent already in stock, Iran would need another two years to make four nuclear bombs.

Therefore, by the end of 2012 or early 2013 Iran may have a single nuclear bomb, but by 2015 the figure would jump to four or five.

The officer was essentially amplifying the words of his predecessor, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who said on Jan. 26 that as long ago as 2007 or 2008, Iran had already passed the point of no return in developing nuclear weapons. Kochavi agreed with him that none of the sanctions imposed thus far had persuaded Iran to slow down, least of all shut down, its drive for a nuclear weapon.

His comments coincided with the findings published Thursday by the Enterprise Institute, an American think tank, that Iran would be able to manufacture a 15-kiloton nuclear bomb as soon as August of this year, just seven months from now.

Also Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon disclosed that the big blast at the Iranian missile base near Tehran last November blew up a new missile system with a range of 10,000 kilometers, capable of targeting the United States.

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Niall Ferguson editorialized in support of the attack.

The single biggest danger in the Middle East today is not the risk of a six-day Israeli war against Iran. It is the risk that Western wishful nonthinking allows the mullahs of Tehran to get their hands on nuclear weapons. Because I am in no doubt that they would take full advantage of such a lethal lever. We would have acquiesced in the creation of an empire of extortion.

War is an evil. But sometimes a preventive war can be a lesser evil than a policy of appeasement. The people who don’t yet know that are the ones still in denial about what a nuclear-armed Iran would end up costing us all.

It feels like the eve of some creative destruction.

25 Jun 2011

Just One of Those Things

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Haaretz sympathizes with the terrible bad luck that seems to pursue scientists and engineers who provide assistance to Iran’s nuclear program. It’s really a lot like all the deaths which overtook the people who violated that pharoah’s tomb.

The five nuclear experts killed in a plane crash in northern Russia earlier this week had assisted in the design of an Iranian atomic facility, security sources in Russia said on Thursday.

The five Russian experts were among the 44 passengers killed when the Tupolev-134 plane broke up and caught fire on landing outside the northern city of Petrozavodsk on Monday.

The experts – who included lead designers Sergei Rizhov, Gennadi Benyok, Nicolai Tronov and Russia’s top nuclear technological experts, Andrei Tropinov – worked at Bushehr after the contract for the plant’s construction passed from the German Siemens company to Russian hands.

The five were employed at the Hydropress factory, a member of Russia’s state nuclear corporation, and one of the main companies to contract for the Bushehr construction.

The sources said that the death of the scientists is a great blow to the Russian nuclear industry.

The experts were tasked with completing construction of the plant and ensuring that it would be able to survive an earthquake.

According to the sources, although Iranian nuclear scientists have in the past been involved in unexplained accidents and plane crashes, there is no official suspicion of foul play. Investigators are probing human error and technical malfunction as the causes of the crash.

Careful reading between the lines may discover that there is a message of some kind embedded in this news story.

Hat tip to Mollie Hemingway.

17 May 2011

Iran Proceeding With Venezuelan Missile Base

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The Paraguaná Peninsula is the little frying pan shaped extension on the west end of the coast directly below Aruba.

Back in December, NYM quoted a Hudson Institute article by the Moroccan-Italian journalist Anna Mahjar-Barducci discussing a report (English translation) from the German newpaper Die Welt which quoted “Western security sources” on Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela signing an agreement with Teheran last October 19th to permit an Iranian missile base on Venezuelan soil.

It was reported in December that construction was intended to commence late in 2011, and the Jerusalem Post repeats a report from last Friday’s Die Welt noting that Iranian engineers have already been on-site.

The location selected for the missile base is at the western edge of Venezuela’s northern coast, as close as possible to American targets.

The Iranian government is moving forward with the construction of rocket launch bases in Venezuela, the German daily Die Welt wrote in its Friday edition.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is Teheran’s most important South American ally.

Iran is building intermediate- range missile launch pads on the Paraguaná Peninsula, and engineers from a construction firm – Khatam al-Anbia – owned by the Revolutionary Guards visited Paraguaná in February. Amir al-Hadschisadeh, the head of the Guard’s Air Force, participated in the visit, according to the report. Die Welt cited information from “Western security insiders.”

The rocket bases are to include measures to prevent air attacks on Venezuela as well as commando and control stations.

The Iranian military involvement in the project extends to bunker, barracks and watch tower construction. Twenty-meter deep rocket silos are planned. The cost of the Venezuelan military project is being paid for with Iranian oil revenue. The Iranians paid in cash for the preliminary phase of the project and, the total cost is expected to amount to “dozens of millions” of dollars, Die Welt wrote.

The Paraguaná Peninsula is on the coast of Venezuela and is roughly 120 kilometers from America’s main South American partner, Columbia.

According to Die Welt, the clandestine agreement between Venezuela and Iran would mean the Chavez government would fire rocket at Iran’s enemies should the Islamic Republic face military strikes.

19 Jan 2011

Stuxnet Was a Joint US-Israeli Project

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Anonymous official sources have spilled enough to the New York Times to allow it to put the pieces together (and to give an opportunity to US and Israeli Intelligence to take a few public bows and indulge in a bit of gloating at Iran’s expense). And, what do you know! it was another of those George W. Bush policies that Barack Obama decided to continue, just like detentions at Guantanamo.

The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal.

Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own.

Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.

“To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.”

Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program. …

Many mysteries remain, chief among them, exactly who constructed a computer worm that appears to have several authors on several continents. But the digital trail is littered with intriguing bits of evidence.

In early 2008 the German company Siemens cooperated with one of the United States’ premier national laboratories, in Idaho, to identify the vulnerabilities of computer controllers that the company sells to operate industrial machinery around the world — and that American intelligence agencies have identified as key equipment in Iran’s enrichment facilities.

Siemens says that program was part of routine efforts to secure its products against cyberattacks. Nonetheless, it gave the Idaho National Laboratory — which is part of the Energy Department, responsible for America’s nuclear arms — the chance to identify well-hidden holes in the Siemens systems that were exploited the next year by Stuxnet.

The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.

The attacks were not fully successful: Some parts of Iran’s operations ground to a halt, while others survived, according to the reports of international nuclear inspectors. Nor is it clear the attacks are over: Some experts who have examined the code believe it contains the seeds for yet more versions and assaults. …

Israeli officials grin widely when asked about its effects. Mr. Obama’s chief strategist for combating weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, sidestepped a Stuxnet question at a recent conference about Iran, but added with a smile: “I’m glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated.”

In recent days, American officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity have said in interviews that they believe Iran’s setbacks have been underreported. That may explain why Mrs. Clinton provided her public assessment while traveling in the Middle East last week.

By the accounts of a number of computer scientists, nuclear enrichment experts and former officials, the covert race to create Stuxnet was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis, with some help, knowing or unknowing, from the Germans and the British.

The project’s political origins can be found in the last months of the Bush administration. In January 2009, The New York Times reported that Mr. Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz, Iran’s major enrichment center. President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy. So did the Israelis, other officials said.

You can hear the champagne corks popping at Langley all the way out here in Fauquier County.

Read the whole thing.

07 Jan 2011

Former CIA Officer Arrested For Leaking Iran Operations

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James Risen‘s source for the MERLIN story has been arrested.

It is a bit ironical, but there can be no doubt that the Obama Administration has been taking a much tougher line with leakers of National Security information than the Bush Administration ever did.

Washington Post:

A former CIA officer involved in spying efforts against Iran was arrested Thursday on charges of leaking classified information to a reporter, continuing the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on the flow of government secrets to the media.

Jeffrey A. Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo., was charged with 10 felony counts, including obstruction of justice and unauthorized disclosure of national defense information. A federal indictment made public Thursday in the Eastern District of Virginia accuses Sterling of leaking secrets after he was fired from the CIA and the agency refused to settle a racial discrimination claim he made.

The intensified campaign against leaks comes as the U.S. government is confronting a potent new threat to its ability to keep secrets from public view. Over the past year, the WikiLeaks Web site has posted and shared with multiple media organizations thousands of classified U.S. military records and State Department cables.

The indictment, returned under seal last month, does not identify the alleged recipient of the classified information. But former U.S. intelligence officials and lawyers familiar with the case said that the journalist is New York Times reporter James Risen.

The officials said Sterling has long been suspected within the agency of providing Risen with extensive information about CIA efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, material that is believed to have formed the basis for a prominent chapter in Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War.” …

Other cases brought during the Obama administration include the indictment in April last year of Thomas A. Drake, a former executive at the National Security Agency accused of leaking information to the Baltimore Sun; as well as a State Department contractor indicted last August on charges of leaking information to Fox News.

The latest indictment includes details about dozens of phone calls and e-mails exchanged between Sterling and a journalist identified in the document only as Author A, beginning in 2002.

Sterling was the subject of a lengthy New York Times article by Risen in March of that year that reported Sterling’s assertion that his career had been repeatedly derailed by racial discrimination within the CIA.

Sterling was described in the piece as the “sole black officer” assigned to the Iran Task Force in January 1995. He handled Iranian sources, was subsequently trained in Farsi and was sent to a station in Germany to recruit Iranian spies.

Sterling asserts in the article that he was undermined in that job and that he was passed over for others by senior CIA officials who considered him a liability because of his skin color. At one point, he said, a supervisor told him that he couldn’t function as a spy because “you kind of stick out as a big black guy.”

Sterling, a lawyer who also sparred with senior CIA officials over his plans to publish a memoir, filed a complaint with the CIA’s antidiscrimination office in 2000 and subsequently sued the agency.

According to the indictment, about two weeks after the CIA rejected a third settlement offer from Sterling, he “placed an interstate telephone call” from his home in Herndon to the Maryland residence of Author A.

In subsequent calls and e-mails, the Justice Department alleges, Sterling shared details of sensitive CIA operations against Iran. Among them was a classified effort code-named Merlin that was designed to degrade Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program by sabotaging materials and blueprints being acquired by Iran.

The indictment indicates that Risen planned to write about the program, which Sterling portrayed as deeply flawed. The New York Times did not publish a story, but details about the Merlin operation appeared in Risen’s book.

One chapter describes a CIA plan to employ a Russian agent to offer Iran nuclear weapons blueprints that contained fatal flaws. But because the flaws were obvious and possible to overcome, the plan risked providing useful information that could “help Iran leapfrog one of the last remaining engineering hurdles blocking its path to a nuclear weapon,” according to the book.

The indictment says that a description of the plan also appeared in drafts of a memoir that Sterling submitted to CIA reviewers. CIA spokesman George Little declined to comment on the case, except to say that the agency “deplores the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”

Federal authorities pressured Risen at least twice to testify before a grand jury investigating the case. Kelley, Risen’s attorney, said that the reporter declined to comply and that he does not expect Risen to be called as a witness if there is a trial.

According to the indictment, Sterling was aware by 2003 that the FBI was investigating him for alleged illegal disclosure of classified information. In 2004, he filed for bankruptcy protection, listing debts of $150,000.

Sterling was arrested Thursday in St. Louis. U.S. officials said he will remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Monday. He faces six charges of unauthorized disclosure and retention of national defense information, each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Potential penalties on the remaining four charges include a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.

EmptyWheel explains that Sterling has sued the CIA twice, and has a timeline.

[The first lawsuit was] an employment discrimination suit filed in NY on August 2, 2000. On April 18, 2002, the CIA first invoked state secrets in his case. On March 7, 2003, the judge in NY granted the CIA’s venue complaint and moved the case to Alexandria, VA–basically the CIA’s very own district court. On March 3, 2004, the case was dismissed. And on September 28, 2005, the Appeals Court rejected Sterling’s appeal.

Sterling’s second suit was filed on March 4, 2003 (that is, the day after his employment discrimination suit was dismissed in VA). It charges that Sterling submitted his memoirs for pre-publication review in 2002. His second submission was held up, not least to give CIA’s Office of General Counsel a review. Sterling claims that OGC got involved to give them an advantage in the NY employment discrimination suit. In December 2002, the CIA told him some of the information was classified (after having earlier said that similar information was not). Upon rejecting his submission on January 3, 2003, the CIA not only told him some of the information was classified, but they “informed Sterling that he should add information into the manuscript that was blatantly false.”

15 Dec 2010

“Stuxnet Virus Set Back Iranian Nuclear Program Two Years”

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The Jerusalem Post, via an interview with an IT professional, provides an expert assessment on who was responsible for creating the Stuxnet virus and a knowledgeable estimate of just how effective it was in shutting down Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

The Stuxnet virus, which has attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities and which Israel is suspected of creating, has set back the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program by two years, a top German computer consultant who was one of the first experts to analyze the program’s code told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“It will take two years for Iran to get back on track,” Langer said in a telephone interview from his office in Hamburg, Germany. “This was nearly as effective as a military strike, but even better since there are no fatalities and no full-blown war. From a military perspective, this was a huge success.”

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, said that Iran had suspended work at its nuclear-field production facilities, likely a result of the Stuxnet virus.

According to Langer, Iran’s best move would be to throw out all of the computers that have been infected by the worm, which he said was the most “advanced and aggressive malware in history.” But, he said, even once all of the computers were thrown out, Iran would have to ensure that computers used by outside contractors were also clean of Stuxnet.

“It is extremely difficult to clean up installations from Stuxnet, and we know that Iran is no good in IT [information technology] security, and they are just beginning to learn what this all means,” he said. “Just to get their systems running again they have to get rid of the virus, and this will take time, and then they need to replace the equipment, and they have to rebuild the centrifuges at Natanz and possibly buy a new turbine for Bushehr.”

Widespread speculation has named Israel’s Military Intelligence Unit 8200, known for its advanced Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities, as the possible creator of the software, as well as the United States.

Langer said that in his opinion at least two countries – possibly Israel and the United States – were behind Stuxnet.

Israel has traditionally declined comment on its suspected involvement in the Stuxnet virus, but senior IDF officers recently confirmed that Iran had encountered significant technological difficulties with its centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility.

“We can say that it must have taken several years to develop, and we arrived at this conclusion through code analysis, since the code on the control systems is 15,000 lines of code, and this is a huge amount,” Langer said.

“This piece of evidence led us to conclude that this is not by a hacker,” he continued. “It had to be a country, and we can also conclude that even one nation-state would not have been able to do this on its own.”

Eric Byres, a computer security expert who runs a website called Tofino Security, which provides solutions for industrial companies with Stuxnet-related problems, told the Post on Tuesday that the number of Iranians visiting his site had jumped tremendously in recent weeks – a likely indication that the virus is still causing great disarray at Iranian nuclear facilities.

“What caught our attention was that last year we maybe had one or two people from Iran trying to access the secure areas on our site,” Byres said. “Iran was never on the map for us, and all of a sudden we are now getting massive numbers of people going to our website, and people who we can identify as being from Iran.”

09 Dec 2010

Venezuela to Host Iranian Missiles

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ISNA: Rooholla Vahdati
Shahab 3 missile test launch (photo: ISNA – Rooholla Vahdati)

Anna Mahjar-Barducci, writing for the Hudson Institute, informs us that a replay of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is right around the corner. This time, it will not be Russia but the crazed mullahs of Iran placing potentially nuclear-armed medium range ballistic missiles within range of US cities.

Iran is planning to place medium-range missiles on Venezuelan soil, based on western information sources, according to an article in the German daily, Die Welt, of November 25, 2010. According to the article, an agreement between the two countries was signed during the last visit o Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Tehran on October19, 2010. The previously undisclosed contract provides for the establishment of a jointly operated military base in Venezuela, and the joint development of ground-to-ground missiles.

At a moment when NATO members found an agreement, in the recent Lisbon summit (19-20 November 2010), to develop a Missile Defence capability to protect NATO’s populations and territories in Europe against ballistic missile attacks from the East (namely, Iran), Iran’s counter-move consists in establishing a strategic base in the South American continent – in the United States’s soft underbelly.

According to Die Welt, Venezuela has agreed to allow Iran to establish a military base manned by Iranian missile officers, soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Venezuelan missile officers. In addition, Iran has given permission for the missiles to be used in case of an “emergency”. In return, the agreement states that Venezuela can use these facilities for “national needs” – radically increasing the threat to neighbors like Colombia. The German daily claims that according to the agreement, Iranian Shahab 3 (range 1300-1500 km), Scud-B (285-330 km) and Scud-C (300, 500 and 700 km) will be deployed in the proposed base. It says that Iran also pledged to help Venezuela in rocket technology expertise, including intensive training of officers

Venezuela has also become the country through which Iran intends to bypass UN sanctions. Following a new round of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic, for example, Russia decided not to sell five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defence systems to Iran. These weapons, along with a number of other weapons, were part of a deal, signed in 2007, worth $800 million. Now that these weapons cannot be delivered to Iran, Russia is looking for new customers; according to the Russian press agency Novosti, it found one: Venezuela. …

If Iran, therefore, cannot get the S-300 missiles directly from Russia, it can still have them through its proxy, Venezuela, and deploy them against its staunchest enemy, the U.S..

But that is not all. According to Reuters, Iran has developed a version of the Russian S-300 missile and will test-fire it soon, as declared by the official news agency IRNA, two months after Moscow cancelled the delivery to comply with United Nations sanctions. Iran, in fact, has its own capabilities for constructing missiles that could carry atomic warheads. According to a study recently released by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, Iran is presently aiming to perfect the already existing solid-fuel, medium-range missile that can carry a nuke to hit regional targets, such as Israel. If a missile base can be opened in Venezuela, many US cities will be able to be reached from there even with short-medium range missiles.

The situation that is unfolding in Venezuela has some resemblance to the Cuba crisis of 1962. At that time, Cuba was acting on behalf of the USSR; now Venezuela is acting on behalf of Iran. At present, the geopolitical situation is very different: the world is no longer ruled by two superpowers; new nations, often with questionable leaders and the ambition of acquiring global status, are appearing on the international scene. Their danger to the free world will be greater if the process of nuclear proliferation is not stopped. Among the nations that aspire to become world powers, Iran has certainly the best capabilities of posing a challenge to the West.

Back in the 1962, thanks to the stern stance adopted by the then Kennedy administration, the crisis was defused

Nowadays, however, we do not see the same firmness from the present administration.

Unlike Nikita Krushchev who obviously did not desire a shared nuclear apocalypse, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an arch-fundamentalist Shiite Muslim who believes in, and eagerly awaits, the appearance of the 12th “Hidden” Imam, the Mahdi, who will return suddenly accompanied by Jesus to announce the arrival of the universal conversion of mankind to Islam, and Ahmadinejad has given ample evidence that he believes the time is ripe for the arrival of the Mahdi and believes that he is in a position to hasten his appearance.

The United States in 1962 had decayed to the point of abandoning the Monroe Doctrine, which had previously placed the Americas under US protection against foreign colonization, and President Kennedy got rid of the Russian missiles via a face-saving secret surrender presented publicly as a US foreign policy triumph. The US gave Russia a pledge never to invade Cuba or overthrow the Communist regime 90 miles from Havana, and withdrew US missiles from Turkey.

Today, America is in general far weaker in character, infinitely more pacifistic than in 1962. We have Barack Obama, not WWII Navy veteran John Kennedy, in the White House. What will Obama do or not do? The prospect is depressing.

A nuclear-armed Shahab-3 could arrive from Venezuela to Southern US cities in roughly half an hour from the moment of being launched.

29 Nov 2010

Most Alarming Leak

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Danger Room:

T]he most worrisome news to come out the diplo doc dump is that North Korea secretly gave Iran 19 powerful missiles with a range of 2,000 miles. The missiles, known as the BM-25, are modified from Russian R-27s, which were submarine-based missiles carrying nuclear weapons. “If fired from Iran,” the New York Times notes, a missile with that range could “let its warheads reach targets as far away as Western Europe, including Berlin.” The BM-25, unveiled in a North Korean military parade last month, may be North Korea’s longest-range missile yet. Ares’ David A. Fulgham observed that its design “is showing second-stage and nose-cone design characteristics associated with Iran’s Shahab 3 missile,” indicating growing missile ties between the two rogue states.

No wonder why European leaders are suddenly so keen on missile defense.

18 Oct 2010

Covert War With Iran Continues

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Shehab-3 test firing from mobile launcher

First, some person or persons unknown introduced what Siemens is describing as “the most refined type of malware ever developed,” the Stuxnet worm, which attacks Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems used to control and monitor industrial processes into Iran’s nuclear facilities’ computers.

Stuxnet has the the capability to reprogram the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) which control the entire facility’s operation and monitor its safety and hide the changes.

So sophisticated was the new worm that it is believed it could only have been produced by a state defense organization.

HuffPo

Now, the Internet Mossad-mouthpiece, Debkafile is gleefully reporting that last Tuesday Iran lost most of its ballistic missile launchers in a series of mysterious blasts.

A top-secret Iranian military installation was struck by a triple blast Tues. Oct. 12 the day before Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report the site held most of the Shehab-3 medium-range missile launchers Iran had stocked for striking US forces in Iraq and Israel in the event of war – some set to deliver triple warheads (tri-conic nosecones).

The 18 soldiers officially reported killed in the blasts and 14 injured belonged to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) main missile arm, the Al-Hadid Brigades.

The Imam Ali Base where the explosion occurred is situated in lofty Zagros mountain country near the town of Khorramabad in the western Iranian province of Lorestan. This site was selected for an altitude which eases precise targeting and the difficulty of reaching it for air or ground attack. It lies 400 kilometers from Baghdad and primary American bases in central Iraq and 1,250 kilometers from Tel Aviv and central Israel. Both are well within the Shehab-3 missile’s 1,800-2,500-kilometer operational range.

Our Iranian sources report that Tehran spent hundreds of millions to build one of the largest subterranean missile launching facilities of its kind in the Middle East or Europe. Burrowed under the Imam Ali Base is a whole network of wide tunnels deep underground. Somehow, a mysterious hand rigged three blasts in quick succession deep inside those tunnels, destroying a large number of launchers and causing enough damage to render the facility unfit for use.

In its official statement on the incident, Tehran denied it was the result of “a terrorist attack” and claimed the explosion “was caused by a nearby fire that spread to the munitions storage area of the base.” In the same way, the regime went to great lengths to cover up the ravages wrought to their nuclear and military control systems by the Stuxnet virus – which is still at work.

In actual fact, debkafile’s military sources report, Iran’s missile arsenal and the Revolutionary Guards have also suffered a devastating blow. Worst of all, all their experts are a loss to account for the assailants’ ability to penetrate one of Iran’s most closely guarded bases and reach deep underground to blow up the missile launchers.

The number of casualties is believed to be greater than the figure given out by Tehran.

The Israeli intelligence service has apparently scored a second major devastating blow to Iran’s strategic capabilities.


Range of Sehab-3 missile

06 Jul 2010

Sabotage Delayed Iranian Uranium Enrichment

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The United States, Israel, and their Western allies have, so far, failed to take military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapon development program, but Eli Lake explains that does not mean that covert operations intended to at least slow production have not been underway behind the scenes.

Efforts to steer defective products toward Iran have taken a number of forms. For instance, according to a former Mossad operations officer who goes by the alias Michael Ross, in 1998, the Mossad and the CIA developed a plan to sell a supposedly helpful chemical substance—which would, in fact, gum up centrifuges over time—to Iran on the black market.

Then, there was the odd case of the Tinners, a Swiss family of engineers long believed to be a cog in the network of nuclear proliferators organized by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. In 2008, Urs Tinner admitted that he had been a CIA asset. And it turns out that he may have played a crucial role in an effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. According to The New York Times and other sources, the Tinners sold high-quality vacuum pumps to the Iranians and Libyans. The pumps are crucial for uranium enrichment because centrifuges must operate inside a vacuum seal. David Albright—the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and the author of a new history of Iran’s illicit procurement of nuclear technology, Peddling Peril—explains that, while the pumps that ended up in Iran and Libya were produced in Germany, they were also worked on by the Oak Ridge and Los Alamos laboratories. These labs, he says, modified the pumps “to bug them or to make them break down under operational conditions. If you can break the vacuum in a centrifuge cascade, you can destroy hundreds of centrifuges or thousands if you are really lucky.” (A senior intelligence official confirmed Albright’s information to me. It should be noted that not everyone agrees that the Tinners were the ones who sold these pumps to the Iranians and Libyans; Albright, for one, isn’t sure.) …

But do sabotage efforts work? In late 2008 and early 2009, the iaea began to see a drop in the amount of low-enriched uranium (LEU) being produced at Natanz, the facility that lies at the center of Iran’s known nuclear weapons program. In the fall of 2008, its centrifuges were producing 90 kilograms a month of LEU. By the end of the year, however, the same centrifuges were producing 70 kilograms of LEU. To be sure, that number was back up to 85 kilograms per month at the close of 2009, and it has been climbing since, to around 120 kilograms a month; but those increases came after the installation of more centrifuges—all of which suggests that at least some of the machines were less efficient than they should be.

Ivan Oelrich, a nuclear scientist and the vice president of the strategic security program at the Federation of American Scientists, estimated in a study this year that the centrifuges are operating at 20 percent efficiency. “We know the average efficiency of the centrifuges is dismal. We don’t know whether it is because of the quality of the individual centrifuges or how they are linked together,” he explains. “We can’t rule out sabotage as one factor leading to these inefficiencies.” Greg Jones, a nuclear analyst at the rand Corporation, says the Iranians “are operating just under four thousand machines, but they have installed about eight thousand five hundred. Those nonoperating machines have been installed for many months. Why they are not operating is not clear.”

Among people I spoke to, there seemed to be a broad consensus that sabotage was, at the very least, slowing Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon. A senior administration official told me that there was evidence the Iranians are experiencing delays due to “a combination of reasons—some inherent to the nature of the infeasibility of the design and the machines themselves, and some because of actions by the United States and its allies.” Explains David Kay, “History says that these things have done more to slow programs than any sanctions regime has or is likely to do.”

However, the biggest payoff from these efforts may not come from the sabotage itself, but from the psychological effect it could have on Iran’s government. At the most general level, there are probably benefits to keeping Iranian intelligence officials paranoid and off-balance, simply because it can cause them to waste valuable time and resources. This appears to be happening. In 2007, for example, Iran’s state-run news service reported that the national police had arrested a cell of spy squirrels. The next year, Iran reportedly arrested a group of spy pigeons.

But the specific benefit of sabotage is that it makes countries wary of purchasing crucial materials on the black market.

29 Jun 2010

Strike Coming on Iran?

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Gulf News (Bahrain), in English, passed along a report from its sister Arabic paper, describing a US/Israeli military build-up in preparation for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Israel is massing warplanes in the Caucasus for an attack on Iran, it was revealed yesterday.

Preparations are underway to launch the military attack from Azerbaijan and Georgia, reports our sister paper Akhbar Al Khaleej, quoting military sources.

Israel was, in fact, training pilots in Turkey to launch the strike and was smuggling planes into Georgia using Turkish airspace, they said.

However, Turkey was unaware of Israel’s intention of transferring the planes to Georgia, the sources said.

The unexpected crisis between Israel and Turkey following an Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza Strip hit Israeli calculations.

Azerbaijan-based intelligence units, working under the cover of technicians, trainers and consultants, have helped with the preparations, the sources said.

Military equipment, mostly supplied by the US, was transported to a Georgian port via the Black Sea.

Georgian coastguard and Israeli controllers are co-operating to hide the operations from Russian vessels, said the sources.

They point out that according to Israel, it will not be in a position to launch a strike on Iran without using bases in Georgia and Azerbaijan due to the limited capabilities of its nuclear submarines stationed near the Iranian coast.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Press TV reported that a very large contingent of US ground forces had massed in Azerbaijan, near the Iranian border. The independent Azerbaijani news website Trend confirmed the report.

Those reports came just days after the Pentagon confirmed that an unusually large fleet of US warships had indeed passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal en route to the Gulf. At least one Israeli warship reportedly joined the American armada.

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DEBKAfile has similar reports going back to a week before today:

Iran has declared a state of war on its northwestern border, DEBKAfile’s military and Iranian sources report. Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps men and equipment units are being massed in the Caspian Sea region against what Tehran claims are US and Israeli forces concentrated on army and air bases in Azerbaijan ready to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. …

Other Iranian sources report that in the last few days, Israel has secretly transferred a large number of bomber jets to bases in Azerbaijan, via Georgia, and that American special forces are also concentrated in Azerbaijan in preparation for a strike.


DEBKAfile
also notes that the US has stationed a third carrier group in the vicinity of Iran.

Debkafile’s military sources report that Washington has posted a third carrier opposite Iran’s shores. It is supported by amphibious assault ships and up to 4,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel, bringing the total US strength in these waters to three carriers and 10,000 combat personnel.

And also notes in its paid-subscription version that Hillary Clinton will soon be making whirlwind visits to Azerbaijan, Georgia an Armenia.

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It is very difficult to picture the Obama Administration reaching an internal consensus allowing it to initiate a preemptive military strike on another country. If Barack Hussein astonishingly ate his Wheaties one morning and suddenly experienced an attack of testosterone, any attempted serious US action would almost certainly be preceded by tearful resignations, leaks to the Washington Post and New York Times, and aggrieved editorials on FireDogLake. But… life is strange, human nature is unpredictable, one never really knows.

More likely, all this represents a calculated bluff intended to force Iran to resume negotiations.

—————————

Ha’aretz quotes Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as telling reporters on Saturday that “the members of the G-8 are worried and believe absolutely that Israel will probably react preemptively.”

18 Apr 2010

The Emperor Has No Strategy

, , , ,

Much like the Emperor in the fairy tale who had no clothes, Barack Obama has received a wake-up call in the form of a secret memo from his own Secretary of Defense warning that his administration has no strategy for coping with a nuclear Iran.

Of course, in this case, it is the United States, her civilian population and her allies, who are naked and embarrassed by exposure to the threat of nuclear blackmail or actual attack by surrogates of the fanatical Iranian regime.


New York Times
:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.

Officials familiar with the memo’s contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.

One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

In that case, Iran could remain a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while becoming what strategists call a “virtual” nuclear weapons state.

According to several officials, the memorandum also calls for new thinking about how the United States might contain Iran’s power if it decided to produce a weapon, and how to deal with the possibility that fuel or weapons could be obtained by one of the terrorist groups Iran has supported, which officials said they considered to be a less-likely possibility.

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