Iran, Iran Nuclear Treaty, Iranian Nuclear Threat, John Kerry, Obama Administration, Obamacare, Satire
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.
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 donâ€™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.
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.
The ParaguanÃ¡ 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 Teheranâ€™s most important South American ally.
Iran is building intermediate- range missile launch pads on the ParaguanÃ¡ Peninsula, and engineers from a construction firm â€“ Khatam al-Anbia â€“ owned by the Revolutionary Guards visited ParaguanÃ¡ in February. Amir al-Hadschisadeh, the head of the Guardâ€™s Air Force, participated in the visit, according to the report. Die Welt cited information from â€œWestern security insiders.â€
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 â€œdozens of millionsâ€ of dollars, Die Welt wrote.
The ParaguanÃ¡ Peninsula is on the coast of Venezuela and is roughly 120 kilometers from Americaâ€™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 Iranâ€™s enemies should the Islamic Republic face military strikes.
Barack Obama, CIA, Covert Actions, Covert Operations, George W. Bush, Intelligence, Iran Nuclear Threat, Iranian Nuclear Threat, Israel, Malware, Mossad, Stuxnet, USA
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 Israelâ€™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 â€” as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iranâ€™s efforts to make a bomb of its own.
Behind Dimonaâ€™s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iranâ€™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 Iranâ€™s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehranâ€™s ability to make its first nuclear arms.
â€œTo check out the worm, you have to know the machines,â€ said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. â€œThe reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.â€
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 Statesâ€™ premier national laboratories, in Idaho, to identify the vulnerabilities of computer controllers that the company sells to operate industrial machinery around the world â€” and that American intelligence agencies have identified as key equipment in Iranâ€™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 â€” which is part of the Energy Department, responsible for Americaâ€™s nuclear arms â€” 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 Iranâ€™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 Iranâ€™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. Obamaâ€™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: â€œIâ€™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.â€
In recent days, American officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity have said in interviews that they believe Iranâ€™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 projectâ€™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, Iranâ€™s major enrichment center. President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administrationâ€™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.
CIA, Iran, Iranian Nuclear Threat, James Risen, Jeffrey Sterling, Leaks, Merlin Operation, New York Times
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.
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 CIAâ€™s venue complaint and moved the case to Alexandria, VAâ€“basically the CIAâ€™s very own district court. On March 3, 2004, the case was dismissed. And on September 28, 2005, the Appeals Court rejected Sterlingâ€™s appeal.
Sterlingâ€™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 CIAâ€™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 â€œinformed Sterling that he should add information into the manuscript that was blatantly false.â€
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 Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities and which Israel is suspected of creating, has set back the Islamic Republicâ€™s nuclear program by two years, a top German computer consultant who was one of the first experts to analyze the programâ€™s code told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
â€œIt will take two years for Iran to get back on track,â€ Langer said in a telephone interview from his office in Hamburg, Germany. â€œThis 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.â€
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nationâ€™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, Iranâ€™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 â€œadvanced and aggressive malware in history.â€ 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.
â€œIt 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,â€ he said. â€œJust 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.â€
Widespread speculation has named Israelâ€™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 â€“ possibly Israel and the United States â€“ 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.
â€œWe 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,â€ Langer said.
â€œThis piece of evidence led us to conclude that this is not by a hacker,â€ he continued. â€œIt 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.â€
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 â€“ a likely indication that the virus is still causing great disarray at Iranian nuclear facilities.
â€œWhat 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,â€ Byres said. â€œIran 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.â€
Iran, Iranian Nuclear Threat, Islam, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ran, Russia, Shahab-3, Twelfth Imam, Venezuela
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” â€“ 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.
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. â€œIf fired from Iran,â€ the New York Times notes, a missile with that range could â€œlet its warheads reach targets as far away as Western Europe, including Berlin.â€ The BM-25, unveiled in a North Korean military parade last month, may be North Koreaâ€™s longest-range missile yet. Aresâ€™ David A. Fulgham observed that its design â€œis showing second-stage and nose-cone design characteristics associated with Iranâ€™s Shahab 3 missile,â€ indicating growing missile ties between the two rogue states.
No wonder why European leaders are suddenly so keen on missile defense.
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.
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
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 substanceâ€”which would, in fact, gum up centrifuges over timeâ€”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 Iranâ€™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 Albrightâ€”the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and the author of a new history of Iranâ€™s illicit procurement of nuclear technology, Peddling Perilâ€”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 â€œto 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.â€ (A senior intelligence official confirmed Albrightâ€™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, isnâ€™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 Iranâ€™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 centrifugesâ€”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. â€œWe know the average efficiency of the centrifuges is dismal. We donâ€™t know whether it is because of the quality of the individual centrifuges or how they are linked together,â€ he explains. â€œWe canâ€™t rule out sabotage as one factor leading to these inefficiencies.â€ Greg Jones, a nuclear analyst at the rand Corporation, says the Iranians â€œare 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.â€
Among people I spoke to, there seemed to be a broad consensus that sabotage was, at the very least, slowing Iranâ€™s quest for a nuclear weapon. A senior administration official told me that there was evidence the Iranians are experiencing delays due to â€œa combination of reasonsâ€”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.â€ Explains David Kay, â€œHistory says that these things have done more to slow programs than any sanctions regime has or is likely to do.â€
However, the biggest payoff from these efforts may not come from the sabotage itself, but from the psychological effect it could have on Iranâ€™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, Iranâ€™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.