Iran Crosses the Nuclear Red Line

By Kenneth R. Timmerman
| April 13, 2006

Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani announced on Tuesday that Iran had successfully enriched uranium at a heavily-fortified buried facility in Natanz, southwest of Tehran, raising the specter that the U.S. and its allies would take pre-emptive military action against Iran.

Long considered a "moderate" by many in the West, Rafsanjani has been a key figure in Iran's secret nuclear weapons program since 1985, when he sponsored a series of conferences to entice exiled nuclear scientists to return to Iran.

By announcing the success of Iran's uranium enrichment program, Rafsanjani upstaged the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made a similar announcement on Wednesday in the northeastern city of Mashad, bordering Afghanistan.

Rafsanjani beat Ahmadinejad to the punch by almost twenty-four hours in an interview with the Kuwait News Agency. The two men have been archrivals since Ahmadinejad bested Rafsanjani in a stage-managed election last June.

If nothing else, Rafsanjani's involvement should remind us in the West that for all the factional fighting in Tehran, this regime stands united in its determination to develop nuclear weapons and is willing to pay a high cost to achieve nuclear capability.

The enrichment news came barely one week after the United Nations Security Council demanded that Iran cease all uranium enrichment activities by April 28. IAEA Secretary General Mohammad ElBaradei is in Tehran today to report on Iran's "compliance" with United Nations Security Council demand.

The Iranians have already announced how they intend to comply: by quickly installing up to 3,000 centrifuges at the enrichment plant at Natanz by the end of this year, in a bid to achieve "industrial" capability. That same capability would also allow them to make weapons.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded Wednesday: "the world does not believe that Iran should have the capability and the technology that could lead to a nuclear weapon." White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Iran's latest steps showed "It is time for action."

In Vienna, IAEA officials have been telling reporters that they don't have much hope that ElBaradei will succeed in Tehran. One of their latest discoveries of Iran's perfidy came when an IAEA team traveled to Pakistan recently, where they debriefed black market nuclear impresario, Dr. A.Q. Khan.

Dr. Khan reportedly provided the United Nations gumshoes new information about the equipment and blueprints he sold the Iranians starting in the late 1980s that directly contradicted Iran's declarations to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Dr. Khan's information convinced the IAEA analysts that Iran has been operating a clandestine uranium enrichment plant, possibly for many years, and that Iran has been lying all along. Shocking!

I warned in Countdown to Crisis that such a plant, built to Dr. Khan's specifications, would have given Iran the capability of producing enough nuclear weapons material for between twenty to twenty-five bombs by the time the stepped-up IAEA inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities began in February 2003.

Israel and the United States have long considered successful enrichment by Iran to be a "red line" they would not allow Iran to cross.

Now that Iran has publicly acknowledged it has crossed that line, it appears almost to be taunting the United States or Israel to respond militarily.

One of Ayatollah Khomeini's best-remembered one-liners during the 1979-1981 hostage crisis was, "American can do nothing."
As a candidate for president last year, Khomeini disciple Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to repeating the ayatollah's famous line. In announcing that Iran had joined the "nuclear club" on Wednesday, he used a variation on the same theme.

In a lead editorial on Wednesday, the New York Times called potential air strikes on Iran "military fantasies" and "reckless folly." The nervous nellies at the august Old Lady squawked that Iran's rush to develop nuclear weapons "shows just how badly things can go wrong when an administration rashly embraces simple military solutions to complicated problems."

The Times uncritically adopted rumors spread by leftwing websites and by anti-Bush author Seymour Hersh that the administration is planning a nuclear strike on Iran, and worked itself into a self-righteous fritz that the White House was once again "shutting its ears to military and intelligence professions who turn out to be tragically prescient."

But the U.S. has no need of using nuclear weapons should it become necessary to use force to cripple Iran's nuclear weapons program, says Lt. Gen. (ret.) Thomas McInerney, now a FoxNews military analyst.

U.S. airpower alone, armed with conventional bunker-buster bombs, would be more than enough to wipe out the Iran's nuclear and missile facilities and to cripple its ability to command and control its military forces, he told the Intelligence Summit in Washington, DC last month.

General McInerney believes that U.S. air power is so massive, precise, and stealthy, it can effectively disarm Iran without putting a single boot on the ground.

He calls his regime-busting scenario, "Big George."

In General McInerny's war plan, B2 stealth bombers based in the United States and F117s based in the region would carry out the initial waves of the attack, crippling Iran's long-range radar and strategic air defenses.

Massive, additional waves of carrier-based F-18s, as well as F-15s and F-16s launching from ground bases in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, and Bahrain, would take out Iran's known nuclear and missile sites.

"Big George" would also target command and control facilities - Revolutionary Guards command centers, key clerics, and other regime-sensitive sites - in the hope of triggering a revolt against the clerical regime by opposition groups inside Iran.

McInerney believes Big George would take just two days and would set back Iran's nuclear weapons program by at least five years, while opening the regime to overthrow.

If the president decided to focus solely on Iran's nuclear and missile sites, he proposed a Plan B version he called "Big Rummy." That would take just one night, General McInerny said.

The New York Times further fretted that U.S. air strikes would "surely rally the Iranian people behind the radical Islamic government and the nuclear programs."

While this is a legitimate fear, we have no reliable gauge on which to measure Iranian public opinion. The regime banned opinion polls two years ago, when a regime-sponsored survey found that 72%of Iranians polled favored closer relations with the United States. (The regime reacted predictably, by jailing the pollster, who now has only bad things to say about the United States).

I'll take this gauge, offered by an Iranian mother who defied the mullahs' police state to phone-in to the exile Radio Sedaye Iran in Los Angeles.

The Iranian regime was trying to jinn up a war-like atmosphere, she said, because they know if there is an actual war, people won't support them and won't join them like they did during 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

"Not only I'll not pray that [a U.S-led] military attack shouldn't occur, I'll be deeply happy and I ask god for it to happen," she told the radio. "It is my family's wish and [the wish of] many Iranians for America to militarily attack. We don't know what else to do! Economy is very bad, people are hungry and have no money. Drug addiction is so bad that you folks outside Iran have no clue."

How representative is her comment? The simple answer is, we just don't know.

But who do you believe? The New York Times? Or a mother from Iran, whose sons have turned to drugs and who sees no hope for the future but a deux ex machina made in the USA?

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