Sunday, June 22, 2008

Iran Nuclear Cauldron Heats Up.

In the face of the war in Iraq, it is alarming to sense a development in the possibility that Iran too might become embroiled in military actions with another power. I have read various reasons that this could happen, but the central issues appear to be that Iran (i) wishes to carry on enriching nuclear fuel and (ii) it is claimed, the country has been providing certain factions in Iraq with weapons. Since many other countries either enrich or handle uranium that has been enriched elsewhere, there is no reason per se that Iran should not do likewise, but the principal concern is over the degree to which uranium would be enriched in uranium-235, either to around 3.5% as a raw material for nuclear fuel in peaceful nuclear power generation or, as is alleged by Israel and the West (both the US and Europe) to nearer 90%, to provide weapons grade uranium. At one stage, Russia offered to enrich uranium for Iran to fuel grade concentrations, but Iran remains defiant that it should be allowed to maintain its own enrichment facilities.

In view of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's), which were never identified in Iraq but furnished one of the reasons to go to war with them, and that it was thought that some of these WMD's might be nuclear, the whole matter is very delicate. I have read a host of commentators' claims that the reason for the Iraq war (the second one at any rate) was "about oil", and there are similar anticipations that any military actions against Iran would in reality be similarly motivated. I am not a politician, but I am setting these matters on the table for discussion. Both Iraq and Iran are lands under which are reckoned enormous deposits of oil, perhaps up to 200 billion barrels worth apiece, and an amount of oil that might be counted to serve more than a decade's worth at present world use - or far longer than that for the needs of individual nations if they managed to get their hands on it - is a glittering prize indeed.

Back in 2006, it was reported [1] that Iran was threatening to deprive the West of oil if the latter went ahead with its sanctions against them over its attempts to acquire a nuclear enrichment facility. Iran insists that its sole purpose in developing the facility is for nuclear power generation, and it had by then 164 centrifuges and there were plans to get another 3,000 in that year. This can be measured against an "expert" view that it would take around 50,000 such centrifuges to produce weapons grade uranium, and so such a prospect appeared some years off, even if that were the intention.

The story has unfolded somewhat since then and there have been a number of potential standoffs between Iran and both Western nations and Israel. Last November (2007) it was reported [2] that the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, had proposed a worldwide ban on companies involved in the development of Iran's oil and gas fields should it fail to curb its nuclear ambitions. He said that Iran had a choice: sanctions from the international community or dropping its nuclear plans and also stopping its support for terrorism and "having a transformed relationship with the world". Military action was not ruled-out by Mr Brown, who said that "hard-headed intervention" was occasionally necessary. He also said that the active providers as well as the potential users of nuclear materials should be held to account.

In the latest development, Israel has apparently carried out a rehearsal exercise for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities [3,4]. Over Israeli 100 fighter-planes were involved in an exercise over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of this month. It would appear that this action was intended to warn Tehran that Israel has the military might to launch an attack on Iran, which it would do if it thought that Iran was "close to getting a nuclear weapon". This does sound familiar, although it is emphasised that there is no definite intention to attack Iran but a display of its capability to do so can be read as a statement of intention. The UN secretary approved a third round of sanctions against Iran back in March 2008 over the nuclear issue, which was unexpected since it was reported by US intelligence at the end of 2007 that Iran had "given up its nuclear weapons programme".

Now I am confused because I didn't think that Iran had ever said it had any plans toward "nuclear weapons", just the peaceful development of nuclear power. Maybe insertion of the word "weapons" is a typo but if so it is highly dangerous.

A spokesman for the Israeli military said that the air force "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by threats facing Israel". Experts have expressed doubt that Israel has the capacity to destroy Iran's extensive and heavily defended nuclear facilities without the assistance of the U.S. In 1981, the Israeli air-force destroyed Iraq's single nuclear reactor and last September it bombed a site in Syria which U.S. intelligence had identified as containing a nuclear reactor constructed with the aid of North Korean nuclear engineers.

Iran still denies vehemently that it intends to develop nuclear weapons but remains steadfast in its intentions and rights to develop a peaceful nuclear power facility. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency which is the UN's watchdog over matters nuclear, has demanded "full disclosure" from Tehran in connection with plans it has obtained covertly to design a nuclear weapon, which Iran has discounted as "baseless, forged or irrelevant".

This flame is under the pot.

[1] "Iran threatens to use 'oil weapon' in nuclear standoff." By Simon Tisdall.
[2] "Gordon Brown threatens Iran's oil interests unless it curbs nuclear ambition."
[3] "Israeli threat to attack Iran over nuclear weapons." By Ian Black.
[4] "Israelis 'rehearse Iran attack'."


Yorkshireminer said...

Did you know that the name of the exercise was called (Glorious Spartan) I am certain that wasn't coincidental. Greece will be one of the few European counties in range of the first
models of Iranian ICBM. The message this announcement sends to me is that if the Iranians don't change their ways they are going to get their bottom spanked, and it is going to make them cry.
Chris nobody can allow a set of Psychotic religious fanatics who believer that a long dead juvenile will suddenly pop up like a Jack-in-the-box out of a well to lead them. You faith in there mental stability takes another knock when you find out they have spent $17,000,000 to build a triumphal way for the procession, along with the fact they have no dress sense. I wonder if it is made out of yellow bricks. Welcome to the modern version of OZ. Imagine what the world will be like if they get the Atomic bomb. For all the fine words about sanctions blah blah blah. The Americans and the Israelis are planing to take out Iran. The Israelis because it is a existential threat, and the Americans because it would eradicate the most destabilizing factor in the Middle east. And send a message to the rest to mind there manners.
To me this is a forgone conclusion. It will most likely begin with a surprise attack by the Israeli Air Force, who will then go home to sort out Hezbullah, who will go ballistic, you don't spend $300,000,000 on bunker busting bomb etc, a bit of over kill for an attack on Iran. They have have learned their lesson how not to deal with them in the 2006. This will be of cause a sideshow, most peoples eyes will be on the Americans, who will be busy seeing, that the corpse stops twitching, and that there are not retaliation against traffic through the Straits there, they will also finishing off what the Israelis missed.
I would estimate perhaps a week of intense bombardment, The revolutionary guard will a very big priority, they are the thugs that keep the regime in power. When the Americans think that there is no more threat to oil supplies and the infrastructure and Iranian Army downgraded to such an extent the Government can't function anymore they will sit back and watch developments. It should be a re-run of the 1991 Gulf war only this time no invasion.
When will it happen, some time in the next two years, I am certain that the Israelis have very accurate intelligence which they have passed on to the Americans concerning this threat. The Israeli intelligence agency make very few mistakes, the only one I can think of was the murder of an Arab waiter in Norway in mistake for one of the Munich Olympic bombers.
The good news in that if you have got any spare cash oil shares will be going up suddenly in the next two years,
We live in interesting times.

Deep Regards

Yorkshire Miner

Professor Chris Rhodes said...

It does indeed seem like a foregone conclusion that there will be an attack or Iran, and one or other reason will be given officially. I agree it will probably come within a year or too, by when oil-prices et.c will be heating up the world and the Middle east in particular quite nicely.

Iraq is now amenable to the US and the West, at its government level, and it seems that the world supply of oil will be "replenished" from those Iraqi fields that have been under-tapped fr the past four years or so.

I read that Western companies have "won" the 30 year rights to exploit Iraqi oil. Depending on how high oil prices will go and what the consequences are to the world financial markets, oil-shares could be very lucrative.

If the West is seen to attack Iran then I can envisage a lot more 9/11 and 7/7 type incidents and that I don't relish.

Interesting times? Yes that's without doubt!

Deep regards, David,


Anonymous said...

claims of supply of weapon have already been proved to be false.

I would think you would know that Iran was absolute right to do civil nuclear enrichment. IEA only has proof of that. They have contracts with US and Russia to help in doing that.

Everyone knows that US has to take over Oil fields of Iraq and Iran it is simple as that. Otherwise US hegemony is going down just like Britain.

Professor Chris Rhodes said...

Britain certainly has less oil and gas that it did, and that will pose some difficult political decisions. I don't imagine there will be a direct attack on Iran by the U.S.... but maybe someone else will do it? I hope for the best outcome, but we shall see.