Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iran one year away from the bomb ..

Yadlin: Tehran needs 12-18 months to build a nuclear bomb
11/29/2011 15:03

Ex-IDF intel chief Yadlin says once Tehran makes decision to build a nuclear bomb it'll take 12-18 months.

There is time before the use of military force will be necessary to stop Iran’s nuclear program, former head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin hinted on Tuesday, saying that once Tehran makes the decision to build a nuclear bomb it will take 12-18 months.

Yadlin spoke at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv where he now serves as the director. He completed his term as head of Military Intelligence last November.

The cause of a blast on Monday in the city of Isfahan – home to a key Iranian nuclear facility – continued to remain a mystery on Tuesday.

Yadlin hinted that it was possible that once the Iranians go to the “breakout” stage and begin enriching military-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, other countries in the world will be prepared to launch a military strike against Iran. He said that Israel did not need to take action until it reaches that stage.

Yadlin seemed to share the opinion of former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has said that Israel should not consider military action until a “sword is against its throat,” meaning until Iran is already building a nuclear weapon.

“Once the Iranians decide they are going to the breakout stage and they openly declare publicly that they are moving forward to a nuclear weapon there will be new opportunities that do not exist today,” said Yadlin, “and this requires us to maintain a dialogue with countries that have better [military] capabilities to deal with this threat.”

He said that the Iranians already have enough lowenriched uranium for 4-5 nuclear weapons, but that they are waiting until they feel that the price they will pay is low before building the bomb.

“The Iranians will [build the bomb] only when they feels that the risks are low. This has not happened,” he said. “What has happened is that the Iranians have obtained all of the necessary components – they can enrich uranium, they have missiles and the recent International Atomic Energy Agency report shows they are also working on the weapon.”

Yadlin said that while Iran will retaliate against a future Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, it will not be interested in a longterm conflict with Israel.

“There will definitely be a response but I propose that Hezbollah and Hamas capabilities should not lead the debate since these are groups that we could find ourselves up against any given day,” Yadlin said.

“There are international mechanisms to limit the Iranian response – by the world and Israel which has ways to make it clear to the Iranians that they will pay a heavy price for launching a prolonged war.”

Iran denies nuclear facility blew up - but satellites reveal it did.

11/29/2011 11:05

Isfahan's deputy governor calls reports of previous day's mysterious blast "sheer lies," according to IRNA news.

Officials from the Iranian city of Isfahan denied on Tuesday that the city had been hit by a mysterious explosion the previous day.

Mohammad-Mahdi Esma'ili, Isfahan's deputy governor in political and security affairs, called the reports "sheer lies" according to the IRNA news agency. An official from the city's fire department also denied that there had been an explosion.

A mysterious explosion rocked the Iranian city of Isfahan on Monday, home to a key facility in Tehran’s nuclear program.

The source and target of the explosion were unclear. Some reports claimed that it took place in a military base and others claimed it was a gas explosion. Isfahan hosts a nuclear facility involved in processing uranium which is fed to the Natanz fuel enrichment facility.

Two weeks ago, on November 12, an explosion hit an Iranian military base near the town of Bid Kaneh, killing 17 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Maj.-Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, chief architect of the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program. Israel’s Mossad has been accused of orchestrating the blast.

On Monday, the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) revealed a satellite image of the military base harmed in the attack two week ago. The image showed extensive damage to a number of buildings within the compound. ISIS said that the blast was caused while Iran was apparently performing a procedure involving an engine for a new missile.

Head of the Military Intelligence Research Directorate Brig.-Gen. Itay Brun told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that the blast at the missile base on November 12 could delay Tehran’s development of long-range missiles.

“The explosion at the site to develop surface-to-surface missiles could stop or delay activities on that track and in that location, but we must emphasize that Iran has other development tracks in addition to that facility,” Brun said.

Compared to an earlier satellite image of the site, the image taken after the blast on November 22 shows damage to most of the buildings in the base.

Some were completely destroyed. ISIS said that some of the destruction could have been the result of subsequent controlled demolition of buildings and the removal of debris.

The Iranian media provided contradictory information about the explosion on Monday.

The Fars news agency reported a large blast in the province but later removed the report from its website.

The Mehr news agency cited other Iranian news media, which it did not identify, as reporting that a blast had taken place at a gas station at a town near Isfahan. However, it also quoted the deputy governor of the province as saying he had no reports of a big explosion in his region.

“So far, no report of a major explosion has been heard from any government body in Isfahan,” Deputy Governor Mohammad Mehdi was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency.

Separately, the European Union is preparing new restrictive measures against Iran and shares US concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said on Monday.

Van Rompuy did not offer details of the planned sanctions in remarks to reporters after a White House meeting with President Barack Obama and other top US officials.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the US and EU said they shared “deep concern” about the possible military dimensions of Tehran’s nuclear pursuits.

“We stress our determination to ensure that Iran complies with its obligations, including abiding by United Nations Security Council resolutions, and to cooperate fully with the IAEA to address the international community’s serious concerns over the nature of its nuclear program,” the statement read.

Reuters contributed to the report.

Breaking News: British Embassy stormed by Iranian protesters

BBC: Protesters in the Iranian capital, Tehran, have broken into the UK embassy compound during a demonstration against sanctions imposed by Britain.

Militant students are said to have removed the British flag, burnt it and replaced it with Iran's flag. State TV showed youths smashing embassy windows.

The move comes after Iran resolved to reduce ties following the UK's decision to impose further sanctions on it.

The UK's Foreign Office said it was "outraged" by the actions.

"It is utterly unacceptable," it said in a statement. "The Iranian government have a clear duty to protect diplomats and embassies."

It later updated its travel advice to Iran, urging Britons there to "stay indoors, keep a low profile and await further advice".

After a series of ups and downs in relations following the 1979 Iranian revolution, London and Tehran restored full diplomatic ties in 1988.

Iran broke off relations the following year after Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa on the author Salman Rushdie. Partial diplomatic relations were restored in 1990 and these were upgraded in 1999 to ambassadorial level.

In 2001, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited Iran.

In March 2007, Iranian forces seized eight Royal Navy sailors and seven marines from their patrol boat on the border between Iran and Iraq, saying that the sailors had entered Iranian waters. They were freed the next month.

In June 2009, Britain froze Iranian assets worth almost £1bn under sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear programme, and later Iran and Britain each expelled two diplomats. The same month, Iran accused Britain of involvement in the post-presidential election unrest in Iran.

In November 2011, Britain imposed new financial sanctions on Iran, a move which appears to have led to the current situation.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry later expressed its "regret for certain unacceptable behaviour by a small number of protesters in spite of efforts by the police".

"The relevant authorities have been asked to take the necessary measures and look into this issue immediately," it said.

The students clashed with riot police and chanted "the embassy of Britain should be taken over" and "death to England".

Students were said to have ransacked offices inside the building, and one protester was reported to be waving a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth II.

Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency said embassy documents had been set alight. Staff fled by the back door, the agency added.

Pictures showed a car inside the compound on fire while several hundred other demonstrators were gathered outside the embassy's walls.

After about two hours, police seemed to be back in control of the building. Live TV footage showed riot police removing protesters.

Security forces fired tear gas, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. It said some protesters and police had been injured in the clash.

However, later reports said some protesters were still in the embassy. The governor of Tehran and the city's head of security have entered the building to try to persuade them to leave, the BBC has learned.

An unconfirmed report from the official Irna news agency said a separate group of protesters had broken into another British embassy compound in the north of the city and seized "classified documents".

Continue reading the main story

In pictures: Iran embassy protest
It was not clear how many embassy staff were in the building at the time. A Foreign Office source said it was checking on the well-being of workers and diplomats, AP reported.

There was strong international reaction to Tuesday's events.

The US condemned the attack "in the strongest terms".

"We stand ready to support our allies at this difficult time," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also condemned the incident, adding: "France expresses its full solidarity with the UK."

Russia said the attack was "unacceptable and deserving condemnation".

Last week the US, UK and Canada announced new measures targeting Iran over its controversial nuclear plans.

For its part, the UK Treasury imposed sanctions on Iranian banks, accusing them of facilitating the country's nuclear programme

That decision followed a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that suggested Iran was working towards acquiring a nuclear weapon.

It said Iran had carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear device".

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

On Sunday, Iran's parliament voted by a large majority to downgrade diplomatic relations with the UK in response to the British action.

Iranian radio reported that some MPs had chanted "Death to Britain" during the vote, which was approved by 87% of MPs.

"Click" Russia activates missile warning system

BBC: Russia has turned on a new incoming missile early warning system in its westernmost region in response to US plans for a missile shield in Europe.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the system to be activated on a visit to the radar unit in Kaliningrad, a Baltic region bordering EU countries.

The unit is equipped with the new Voronezh-DM radar system.

Mr Medvedev has warned Russian missiles could be deployed on the EU's borders if the shield is installed.

Washington wants an anti-missile shield ready by 2020, arguing that it is necessary to provide protection from the potential missile threat posed by countries like Iran.

Under President George W Bush, the US had initially intended to locate major parts of the shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, but Russia objected vigorously.

When Barack Obama took office in the White House, he scaled back the original ambitions.

"Nato's missile defence system [is] designed to defend against threats from outside Europe - not designed to alter balance of deterrence," Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a recent tweet.

Domestic context
In a statement carried by Russian news agencies, Mr Medvedev said: "I expect that this step will be seen by our partners as the first signal of the readiness of our country to make an adequate response to the threats which the missile shield poses for our strategic nuclear forces."

Russia has said it may deploy Iskander ballistic missile launchers in Kaliningrad
Quoted by Interfax, he said: "If our signal is ignored... we will deploy other means of defence including the adoption of tough counter-measures and the deployment of a strike group."

Mr Medvedev has spoken of deploying Iskander missiles - modern versions of the mobile Scud surface-to-surface missile - in Kaliningrad.

On Tuesday, he said Russia was ready to listen to new anti-missile defence proposals from "Western partners" but added that "verbal statements are not enough".

The radar system activated on Mr Medvedev's orders was installed this year at Pionerskoye, Kaliningrad, and is meant to replace older systems in Ukraine and Belarus, according to Russian news website lenta.ru.

With an operating range of 6,000km (3,730 miles), the Voronezh DM can cover "all of Europe and the Atlantic", according to the Russian military.

It is designed to detect space and aerodynamic targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles.

Iran's nuclear programme and its development of long-range missiles have alarmed Western states, despite Tehran's assurances it is not seeking weapons of mass destruction.

One analyst said the decision to activate the system was important but had to be seen in a domestic context.

"Data from this station will allow Russia's leadership to make a decision about a retaliatory nuclear strike, should such a hypothetical need arise," Mikhail Khodaryonok, editor of journal Aerospace Defence, told AFP news agency.

But he described Mr Medvedev's announcement as mainly "pre-election rhetoric" given that both the US missile shield and the Russian system were defensive in nature.

"You would really need to have a vivid imagination to link it to the US missile defence system," the analyst said.

Pakistan/NATO clash may have been a trap set by Taliban

WASHINGTON (AP) – NATO forces may have been lured into attacking friendly Pakistani border posts in a calculated maneuver by the Taliban, according to preliminary U.S. military reports on the deadliest friendly fire incident with Pakistan since the Afghanistan war began.

The NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers over the weekend in an apparent case of mistaken identity, The Associated Press has learned.

A joint U.S.-Afghan patrol was attacked by the Taliban early Saturday morning. While pursuing the enemy in the poorly marked border area, the patrol seems to have mistaken one of the Pakistan troop outposts for a militant encampment and called in a NATO gunship and attack helicopters to open fire.

U.S. officials say the reports suggest the Taliban may have deliberately tried to provoke a cross-border firefight that would set back fragile partnerships between the U.S. and NATO forces and Pakistani soldiers at the ill-defined border.

Officials described the records on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters.

The incident has sent the perpetually difficult U.S.-Pakistan relationship into a tailspin.

On Tuesday, Pakistani Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem called the incident a "deliberate act of aggression" and said it was "next to impossible that NATO" did not know it was attacking Pakistani forces.

Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, announced Monday he has appointed Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, an Air Force special operations officer, to lead the probe of the incident, and said he must include input from the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, as well as representatives from the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

Nadeem said the Pakistani army had little faith that any investigation will get to the bottom of the incident and may not cooperate with it. He said other joint inquiries into at least two other similar — if less deadly — incidents over the last three years had "come to nothing."

Nadeem made the remarks during a briefing with Pakistani journalists and defense analysts in army headquarters. Foreign media were not invited, but two attendees relayed Nadeem's comments to The Associated Press.

According to the U.S. military records described to the AP, the joint U.S. and Afghan patrol requested backup after being hit by mortar and small arms fire by Taliban militants.

Before responding, the joint U.S.-Afghan patrol first checked with the Pakistani army, which reported it had no troops in the area, the military account said.

Some two hours later, still hunting the insurgents — who had by then apparently fled in the direction of Pakistani border posts — the U.S. commander spotted what he thought was a militant encampment, with heavy weapons mounted on tripods.

The joint patrol called for the airstrikes at around 2:21 a.m. Pakistani time, not realizing the encampment was apparently the Pakistani border post.

Records show the aerial response included Apache attack helicopters and an AC-130 gunship.

U.S. officials are working on the assumption the Taliban chose the location for the first attack to create just such confusion and draw U.S. and Pakistani forces into firing on each other, according to U.S. officials briefed on the operation.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama considers the Pakistani deaths a tragedy, and said the administration is determined to investigate.

The Pentagon released a four-page memo from Mattis directing Clark to determine what happened, which units were involved, which ones did or did not cross the border, how the operation was coordinated, and what caused the deaths and injuries.

Mattis also asked Clark to develop recommendations about how border operations could be improved, and said the final report should be submitted by December 23.

The details of the airstrike emerged as aftershocks were reverberating across the U.S. military and diplomatic landscape Monday, threatening communications and supply lines for the Afghan war and the success of an upcoming international conference.

While U.S. officials expressed regret and sympathy over the cross-border incident, they are not acknowledging blame, amid conflicting reports about who fired first.
The airstrike was politically explosive as well as deadly, coming as U.S. officials were working to repair relations with the Pakistanis after a series of major setbacks, including the U.S. commando raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

In recent weeks, military leaders had begun expressing some optimism that U.S.-Pakistan military cooperation along the border was beginning to improve. U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn told Pentagon reporters just last Tuesday that incidents of firing from Pakistan territory had tapered off somewhat in recent weeks.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Pentagon press secretary George Little stressed the need for a strong military relationship with Pakistan.

"The Pakistani government knows our position on that, and that is we do regret the loss of life in this incident, and we are investigating it," said Little.

The military fallout began almost immediately.



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