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Pedro Gonçalves

Iran steps up pace and capacity of uranium enrichment, says IAEA report | World news | ... - 0 views

  • Iran has expanded its enrichment capacity and is enriching uranium at a pace that would bring it to what Israel has declared an unacceptable red line in just over seven months, according to a report by the UN nuclear watchdog.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency also found that Iranian technicians had removed the fuel rods from the country's only functioning nuclear power station at Bushehr, suggesting the new reactor has serious problems.
  • Israeli official stated that the red line drawn by Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, during his UN appearance in September, represented 240kg of 20%-enriched uranium, enough to make a warhead if further enriched to weapons grade.
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  • The sensitivity of 20% uranium figure is that it can be turned into weapons grade relatively fast and easily.
  • The last time the IAEA inspectors drew up a report, three months ago, Iran had made 189kg of 20% uranium but had used nearly 100kg for civilian purposes, leaving an outstanding 96kg.

    In the last three months, that stockpile has grown by 43kg and Iran has not diverted any more of it to civil uses. At the current steady rate of production, that would bring Iran to the Israeli red line by mid-June. But it also installed new centrifuges at its underground enrichment plant in Fordow, with which it could double its rate of production if it chose to do so

Pedro Gonçalves

What would happen if Israel bombed Iran's nuclear plants? | World news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • If Israel hit Iran's nuclear facilities, would Hezbollah, Iran's allies in Lebanon, join in to retaliate? Would America step in to help its best friend in the Middle East? This filmed simulation shows a group of Israeli ex-spooks, former politicians and military officials split into teams to role-play the consequences. I have not seen the full film, but was in the cutting room for a couple of days helping with translation and the scenes I saw were compelling. Team Israel, taking stock of Iranian missile attacks on civilian targets, makes the operational assumption that the situation won't spiral totally out of control.
  • The documentary has an interview with an Iranian former nuclear negotiator and foreign policy adviser, who returns the simulated salvo by saying that Israel has grossly underestimated Iran's capacity for retaliation. Iran, he says, would assume American complicity in any Israeli attack and take aim at US targets in the Middle East. When the US staged their own simulation of this same situation, in March, it predicted that an Israeli strike would lead to a wider regional war.
  • the UK is thinking about putting warplanes in the Persian Gulf as tensions rise. And American military commanders have warned Israel that an attack on Iran could stunt US action, by cutting off key logistics support from Gulf countries that host US bases.
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  • the bit that struck me most was a clip in which the Israeli role-players, having achieved their attack goals, are talking about a UN resolution – wondering if they should launch a final strike before ceasefire, and whether the US can be persuaded to make the resolution state "regret" rather than "condemnation" over Israel's actions. Listening in, you can't help feeling that this conversation has played out before – in real wars; in real life.
Pedro Gonçalves

Israel 'planned Iran attack in 2010' | World news | - 0 views

  • Israel's prime minister and defence minister ordered the country's military to prepare for a strike against Iran's nuclear installations two years ago, according to a television documentary to be aired on Monday.

    But the order was not enacted after it met with strong opposition from key security chiefs, the military chief of staff and head of the Mossad, the programme in the TV series Uvda [Fact] claims.

  • It says that, following a meeting of selected key ministers and officials, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak decided to order the army to raise its level of preparedness to "P Plus", a code signifying imminent military action.

    But the army chief Gabi Ashkenazi and Mossad head Meir Dagan, who were both present at the meeting, opposed the move. According to the hour-long Channel 2 programme, Dagan told Netanyahu and Barak: "You are likely to make an illegal decision to go to war. Only the cabinet is authorised to decide this."

    The programme reported Dagan saying after the meeting that the prime minister and defence minister were "simply trying to steal a war".

  • Since leaving office, both security chiefs have made clear their opposition to premature military action against Iran's nuclear programme. In August, Ashkenazi said "we're still not there", urging more time for sanctions and diplomacy.

    Dagan said bombing Iran was "the stupidest idea I've ever heard". He told CBS's 60 Minutes: "An attack on Iran now before exploring all other approaches is not the right way … to do it."

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  • The military and intelligence establishment in Israel is also believed to have serious reservations about launching unilateral military action. The US has urged restraint, arguing that sanctions need time to take effect.
  • Channel 2's disclosures came as a respected Israeli thinktank, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), published the outcome of a war game simulating the 48-hour period after an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear installations. In the scenario, Israel does not inform the US of its operation until after its launch. Iran reacts by launching around 200 missiles at Israel, and urging its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas to do likewise. However, it is careful to avoid attacking US targets in the immediate aftermath of a strike.

    According to the INSS, there are two opposing outcomes of an Israeli attack: "One anticipates the outbreak of world war three, while the other envisions containment and restraint, and presumes that in practice Iran's capabilities to ignite the Middle East are limited." Its war game "developed in the direction of containment and restraint".

Pedro Gonçalves

US warns Israel off pre-emptive strike on Iran | World news | - 0 views

  • US military commanders have warned their Israeli counterparts that any action against Iran would severely limit the ability of American forces in the region to mount their own operations against the Iranian nuclear programme by cutting off vital logistical support from Gulf Arab allies.
  • The US Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain and the US air force has major bases in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Senior US officers believe the one case in which they could not rely fully on those bases for military operations against Iranian installations would be if Israel acted first.
  • "The Gulf states' one great fear is Iran going nuclear. The other is a regional war that would destabilise them," said a source in the region. "They might support a massive war against Iran, but they know they are not going to get that, and they know a limited strike is not worth it, as it will not destroy the programme and only make Iran angrier."
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  • Barak's comments appear to signal that Israel's new red line is an Iranian stockpile of about 200kg of 20%-enriched uranium in convertible form, enough if enriched further to make one bomb. Western diplomats argue the benchmark is arbitrary, as it would take Iran another few months to enrich the stockpile to 90% (weapons-grade) purity, and then perhaps another year to develop a warhead small enough to put on a missile.
  • Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, said this week in London that it was the Iranian decision this year to convert a third of the country's stock of 20%-enriched uranium into fuel (making it harder to convert to weapons-grade material if Iran decided to make a weapon) that had bought another "eight to 10 months".
  • Israeli leaders had hinted they might take military action to set back the Iranian programme, but that threat receded in September when the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told the United Nations general assembly that Iran's advances in uranium enrichment would only breach Israel's "red line" in spring or summer next year.
  • France's president, François Hollande, met Netanyahu in Paris on Wednesday but rejected the push for military action.

    "It's a threat that cannot be accepted by France," Hollande said, arguing for further sanctions coupled with negotiations. A new round of international talks with Iran are due after the US presidential elections, in which Tehran is expected to be offered sanctions relief in return for an end to 20% enrichment.

  • The UK government has told the US that it cannot rely on the use of British bases in Ascension Island, Cyprus, and Diego Garcia for an assault on Iran as pre-emptive action would be illegal. The Arab spring has also complicated US contingency planning for any new conflict in the Gulf.
  • US naval commanders have watched with unease as the newly elected Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, has made overtures towards Iran. US ships make 200 transits a year through the Suez canal. Manama, the Fifth Fleet headquarters, is the capital of a country that is 70% Shia and currently in turmoil.
  • Ami Ayalon, a former chief of the Israeli navy and the country's internal intelligence service, Shin Bet, argues Israel too cannot ignore the new Arab realities.

    "We live in a new Middle East where the street has become stronger and the leaders are weaker," Ayalon told the Guardian. "In order for Israel to face Iran we will have to form a coalition of relatively pragmatic regimes in the region, and the only way to create that coalition is to show progress on the Israel-Palestinian track."

Pedro Gonçalves

As sanctions bite, Iran's supreme leader may finally have to learn to compromise | Worl... - 0 views

  • any decision over Iran's nuclear programme rests with Khamenei who finds himself caught between two factions inside the regime, a small hawkish group pushing for more nuclear "advances" and a majority shy to show opposition. It emerged recently that an internal report by the Revolutionary Guards suggested that Iran needed only to resist "three more years" under sanctions to achieve its nuclear goals.
Pedro Gonçalves

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Iran's currency crisis due to psychological war | World news | The... - 0 views

  • The Iranian president accused his conservative rivals of complicity in exacerbating the crisis over the rial, saying they had contributed to the situation by launching a propaganda campaign against him. The president pointed the finger at Ali Larijani, the parliament speaker, and criticised him for giving an interview in which Larijani said mismanagement accounted for 80% of the problems and the sanctions 20%, comparing government policy to "Robin Hoodian economics".

    "The respected head of parliament should come forward and help instead of giving interviews," Ahmedinejad said.

    The deputy speaker, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, echoed Larijani, saying on Tuesday that the government's only enemy was "illusion". At least one Iranian MP accused the government of manipulating the country's foreign currency reserves amid speculation that Ahmadinejad might be summoned for questioning.

  • "The president has deliberately kept the market agitated," said Elias Naderan, of the parliamentary economics committee, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency. "I really don't know what Mr Ahmadinejad is thinking. What plan does he have, what is his expectation of the system, and how does he plan to manage this disorder?" Despite several attempts to calm the markets, the government has failed to bring the rial under control. It has lost at least 57% of its value in the past three months after US and EU sanctions targeting the regime's nuclear programme came into effect in July.

    On Monday the rial experienced its biggest devaluation in a single day, dropping more than 15%.

  • On Tuesday, a senior official indicated that the government was relying on its security services to curb speculators, who are blamed for the rial's drop.
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  • Many Iranians have lost faith in the rial and are now rushing to convert their assets and properties to foreign currency and gold.
  • Ahmadinejad expressed regret over the arrest last week of his media adviser, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, and criticised his culture minister for speaking against a reformist newspaper, Shargh, which was closed down at the same time over a cartoon deemed insulting.
Pedro Gonçalves

BBC News - Why Azerbaijan is closer to Israel than Iran - 0 views

  • Israel and the secular government of Azerbaijan share the same goal: to check the spread of political Islam in general and Iran in particular.
  • Theirs is an alliance reinforced by hardware. In February 2012, Israel sold Azerbaijan $1.6bn (1.3bn euros) of sophisticated weapons systems.
  • Earlier this year, America's Foreign Policy magazine suggested the alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan went deeper than many had previously thought.

    The magazine reported that Israel had secured an agreement to use Azerbaijan's airfields in case it went ahead with a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

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  • Azerbaijan's population is mostly Shia Muslim. But its government is intensely secular.
  • "Azerbaijan naturally rejects the Iranian Islamic influence because it is perceived as a threat to the very nation state," says Leila Alieva, the Director of the independent Centre for National and International Studies in Baku.

    "On the other hand, Azerbaijan has always enjoyed a very good relationship with the Jewish community."

  • In May 2012, two Azerbaijani poets were detained in Iran on charges of espionage. Azerbaijan's government has since advised its citizens not to travel to the Islamic Republic.
  • The Azeri people once lived under the Persian Empire. In 1813, the Treaty of Gulistan after the first Russo-Persian war split the ethnic Azeri people into two.
  • Those in the north lived under Russian, then Soviet rule - and are now in independent Azerbaijan. Those in the south lived under the Persian Empire - and are now in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    Today, around nine million ethnic Azeris live in Azerbaijan. But even more ethnic Azeris live across the border in Iran. Figures show that there are around 10-20 million Azeris in Iran - around a fifth of the country's population. Millions more Iranians have Azeri ancestry, including Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

  • Among many Azeris there is a desire for reunification.
Pedro Gonçalves

Analysis - Iran seeks to save pivotal Syrian ally | Reuters - 0 views

  • Iran, handed geostrategic windfalls in the past decade by Washington's elimination of two of its main enemies, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, now fears the pendulum of regional influence could swing the other way.
  • The political and military hardliners in control say Syria stood by Iran in its hour of need, the only Arab nation on its side in the 1980-88 war with Iraq, and deserves loyalty now.

    They also view the conflict in Syria as an extension of a sectarian power struggle with Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia, as well as a U.S.-led campaign to shackle its nuclear ambitions by sanctions or if necessary by military force.

  • For Iran, "losing" Syria would be a damaging blow, but prolonged post-Assad instability might offer opportunities to a country adept at pursuing its interests in a conflict-ridden region, as it has shown in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

    "Assad is far from gone and even when he is, things are going to be chaotic for a while," said Dina Esfandiary of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "

    "And Iran thrives in that kind of context."

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