Iran’s new president Hasan Rouhani is “charming, he is cunning, and he will smile all the way to the bomb,” Minister for International, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz said in an interview with The Washington Post, published on Thursday. Israel believes the United States and others in the West are being misled by the moderate cleric’s recent election to the presidency. Steinitz told the Post that rather than negotiating with Tehran, the U.S. and the international community should tighten the economic sanctions against Iran’s already stagnating economy.'
The Israeli intelligence minister told The Washington Post that Tehran should hear from the U.S. and the international community that it has only two choices:
"voluntarily shutter its uranium enrichment program or “see it destroyed with brute force,” which he envisioned as “a few hours of airstrikes, no more.”
Steinitz shrugged at the possible consequences of such a strike and said he could envision Iran firing “several hundred missiles” at Israel in retaliation, producing “very limited damage because we can intercept many of them,” he told the Post.
Iran this week denied an exiled opposition group’s allegation that it was secretly building a new underground nuclear facility. The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) claims that it had obtained “reliable” information about a tunnel complex under construction in a mountainous area near the town of Damavand, east of the capital Tehran.
The NCRI did not specify what kind of atomic activity it believed would be carried out at the alleged new facility once complete.
“This news is in no way true and is denied,” the Mehr News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi as saying.
“These claims are a continuation of the story-telling of the bankrupt group,” Araqchi said, adding the “terrorist” organization lacked credibility.
The report sparked new concerns in the West, which already suspects the Islamic Republic is trying to develop military nuclear capabilities.
The Paris-based NCRI exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002, but analysts say it has a mixed track record and a political agenda. The NCRI, which seeks an end to Islamist theocratic rule in Iran, is the political wing of the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), which fought alongside Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
The report drew a cautious international response: the U.N. nuclear watchdog and France — one of six world powers trying to diplomatically resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran — merely said they would look into the matter.
In 2009, Iran stated that it planned to build 10 more uranium enrichment sites on top of its underground Natanz and Fordo plants, alarming the West as it could enable Tehran to faster produce material which can have both civilian and military uses.
Tehran’s refusal to curb sensitive nuclear activity, and its lack of full openness with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, have drawn tough Western sanctions and a threat of preemptive military strikes by Israel.
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday that Iran has built a new base where it is likely to test ballistic missiles. The report was based on satellite images of the structure, in the northern Semnan province.
Iran claimed in the past that it was building a new space launch base in the area for its domestic satellite program. According to the report, “the new site is close to Iran’s first space centre, but analysts believe it is designed to test ballistic missiles rather than launch space rockets.”
Satellite images of the site taken in July and obtained by IHS Jane’s, a business intelligence company specializing in military and national security, show a 23-meter (75 feet) tall launch tower sitting on a launch pad measuring 200 meters by 140 meters (656 feet by 460 feet). The satellite images also show a 125-meter (410 feet) long exhaust deflector.
IHS Jane’s analysts said the site has no storage for the liquid rocket fuel — used in the Iranian space program — suggesting it is meant to house ballistic missiles, which use solid fuel.
“This site could be a facility for launching satellites into orbit. However, Iran is already building at least one other site for this purpose and, looking at the satellite imagery we have got, we believe that this facility is most likely used for testing ballistic missiles. IHS editor Matthew Clements was quoted by the Telegraph as saying.
“Its location and orientation would be suitable for long-range missile tests as they would fly over Iranian territory for 870 miles, meaning large quantities of flight data could be gathered before they drop into the Indian Ocean… At the same time, we can’t see any storage facilities for the liquid fuel needed for the rockets that launch satellites, suggesting it will be used for solid-fuel ballistic missiles.”
Clements says there was no indication the Shahrud base was a nuclear facility.
Tehran said it plans to expand its space program.
Minister of Communication and Information Technology Mohammad Hassan Nami said last month that Tehran was “building other [space] centers and we are trying to have a powerful start.”
But according to Clements, IHS findings “along with public Iranian claims, suggest that they would have three launch sites. That seems excessive at a time when Iran is in severe economic difficulties because of Western sanctions.”
Posted by Ted Belman @ 1:34 pm