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Iran’s Nuclear Announcement

Posted By Ryan Mauro On February 16, 2012 @ 12:44 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 9 Comments

The Iranian regime announced yesterday that a new line of centrifuges have been activated and domestically-produced fuel rods are being used. The revelations in the state media were scarier: The underground Fordo nuclear site, clearly designed for nuclear weapons production, has become “fully operational,” potentially bringing Iran only a few short months from having bomb-grade uranium.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proudly announced that Iran had produced its own nuclear fuel rods and installed them into a medical research reactor in Tehran. Iran previously bragged that it made its own rods and the site has no weapons-related purpose. Judith Miller of the Manhattan Institute described the announcement as a “photo opportunity” and “publicity stunt.”

Ahmadinejad also claimed that Iran manufactured 3,000 new “fourth generation” centrifuges for its Natanz site that will have larger and faster output. They will begin making low-enriched uranium called yellowcake next year, the regime said. Experts have serious doubts about the validity of Iran’s boasts in this area.

The announcement on Iran’s state media is of much more concern. The underground enrichment site at Fordo near Qom, built to withstand air strikes, will become “fully operational” in the matter of days. When Israeli Defense Minister warned of Iran reaching an “immunity zone” when military action is no longer viable, he was referring to this site specifically and others built underground and deep in the mountains. The U.S. and Europe point out that the structure of the site makes it incompatible with a peaceful nuclear energy program as Iran claims, but very suitable for nuclear weapons production.

Iran says it is going to enrich uranium at the Fordo site to 20% for use in medical research. A nuclear weapon needs uranium enriched to about 90% but in the words of former Revolutionary Guardsman Reza Kahlili, that 20% threshold brings Iran “9/10 of the way to weaponization.”

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security says that it only takes about 6 months to upgrade 20%-enriched uranium to bomb-grade level using 500-1,000 centrifuges. The Fordo site can hold 3,000 centrifuges. Iran has not said how many centrifuges are at the site but an International Atomic Energy Agency report published in November said that 412 were present.

Reza Kahlili reports that Iran just completed its first trigger for detonating a nuclear bomb, a major achievement that the IAEA knows that Iran has been working on. Last year, he was told by sources in Iran that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the construction of at least two nuclear warheads by next month.

If Kahlili’s sources had accurate information, then Iran is much closer to having a nuclear missile than the West believes. The director of Israel’s military-intelligence says Iran has enough uranium for four nuclear weapons but won’t have a nuclear missile for three years. Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute of Strategic Studies says that once Iran makes enough bomb-grade uranium, it’ll still take over a year for a bomb to be assembled.

Iran is becoming more aggressive as its nuclear program advances.

There were three Iranian-backed terrorist plots against Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia and Thailand in the two days prior to yesterday’s announcement. An Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. and bomb Israeli and Saudi embassies in the U.S. and Argentina was foiled in October. Iran and Syria’s planned wave of attacks in Bahrain was stopped in November. The Iranian regime’s provocations are becoming more frequent and more serious.

Meanwhile, there are influential voices like Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and left-wing Middle East expert Juan Cole trying to convince the world that there isn’t much to worry about. Cole writes:

Iran has no nuclear weapon, no nuclear weapon program, and no prospect of a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years (according to the US National Intelligence estimate) even if they decided they wanted one, which SecDef Leon Panetta says they have not. Iranian supreme theocrat, Ali Khamenei, has given a fatwa that nuclear bombs are forbidden in Islamic law, and it is likely that Iran does not want to construct an actual nuclear weapon.

The IAEA’s report released in November is at odds with their assessments. The agency concluded that Iran is working on nuclear triggers and nuclear warheads and has a secret uranium enrichment program. The construction of the Fordo site does not make sense in the context of a domestic energy program. Iran has even made preparations for an underground nuclear test and is simulating nuclear explosions at its Parchin military base that is off-limits to U.N. inspectors. To believe that Iran is innocent, you must believe that the regime would be willing to subject itself to tremendous hardship and potential military action over an expensive domestic nuclear energy program it cannot afford and doesn’t need.

Secretary of Defense Panetta recently warned that there is a “strong likelihood” of an Israeli strike on Iran by June. Iran’s recent announcements and violent actions explain why.

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