Within the next 12 months, the Americans or the Israelis, possibly both, are likely to launch military strikes aimed at crippling Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Those strikes may come sooner rather than later. And they will probably be nuclear.
Israeli military analysts say intervention is essential before Iran’s scientists are able to complete the nuclear cycle â€” some time during 2007 â€” and start producing weapons-grade uranium. President Ahmadinejad himself has boasted of ‘mastering the fuel cycle’ during the Ten-Day Dawn festival in early February when Iranians mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. At that moment, Iran will have passed what the Israelis call ‘the point of no return’, when enriched uranium can be extracted, stored far from nuclear facilities and be virtually impossible to find.
It will be another two years, according to intelligence estimates, before Iran is able to accumulate sufficient weapons-grade uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, smaller amounts could be doled out to a multiplicity of Iranian-supported terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, to make ‘dirty’ bombs which combine a conventional explosive with radioactive material, such as small amounts of enriched uranium. Just last week the Home Office confirmed that there was to be an increase in the number of police officers trained to deal with ‘dirty’ bombs.
Only the Americans and the Israelis are willing and able to stop the Iranians before they pass the critical enrichment threshold. The United States is this month reported to be deploying an additional aircraft carrier and accompanying strike group to join its existing fleet of cruisers, destroyers and submarines in the Gulf. While senior American officials caution that increased naval power in the region should not be interpreted as preparations for an attack, they acknowledge that their ability to strike at Iran will be enhanced.
But Washington may be too bruised and traumatised by its Iraqi imbroglio to open a fresh front in the Middle East. That leaves Israel. And, after President Ahmadinejad’s repeated calls to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ and his Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran last month, Israel ‘s motivation is sky-high.
‘We are talking here about a threat to the survival of the state of Israel , and on that issue there can be no compromise,’ a senior Israeli source told me. ‘We are the product of the Holocaust in Europe and we will do everything â€” I mean everything â€” to prevent another holocaust occurring in Israel. If the Americans do not act, then we will act. And that moment,’ the source added, ‘might be closer than people dare to imagine.’
This is the part that frightens me the most:
In addition to Iran’s indigenous nuclear programme, there have been reports that it has bought several nuclear bombs ‘off the shelf’ from rogue scientists in the former Soviet Union. So, for all the fuss about its nuclear programme, Iran might already have several tactical nuclear weapons stuffed in its armoury.
If Israel is drawn into a pre-emptive strike, the Iranians might reckon that the international community will judge an Iranian nuclear response to be proportionate, even justifiable. With their political compass fixed at the dangerous intersection of ideological fervour and religious zealotry, the mullahs of Tehran could be calculating that such an outcome will succeed in both burnishing their Islamic credentials and realising their cosmic dream of dominance.
It makes you wonder whether the Iranians truly want to destroy Al-Aqsa. We already know they don’t give a damn about palestinian lives, just as they didn’t care about Lebanese lives last summer.
Once again: Bad feeling about this spring.