Fact Sheets: The Threat from Iran

Iran is one of the foremost, self-proclaimed enemies of the West and one of the most serious threats to stability in the Middle East.

The Iranian government’s extreme interpretation of Islamic law, and its anti-Western philosophy, inspires the rise of Islamic extremists across the world. Iran is also one of the principal state sponsors of terror, proudly delivering weapons to Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists and providing safe haven for many international terrorists, including senior al-Qaeda leaders. Moreover, Iranian agents have acted to perpetrate anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorist attacks in more than 20 countries around the world.  Iran has been implicated in the July 2012 bombing in Bulgaria that killed 5 Israeli’s, the February 2012 attacks on Israeli representatives in Georgia and India, the failed strikes in Thailand and Azerbaijan against Jewish targets, and the foiled attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. in October 2011.  Israel’s Mossad security service also noted that Iran was behind foiled plots to attack Jewish and Israeli targets in Kenya and Cyprus as well.

But above all these concerns, the most menacing threat Iran poses to international security is its harnessing of nuclear energy for the purpose of developing a nuclear bomb.

In 2005, Iran made its first advance in the production of enriched uranium and subsequently established a secret nuclear research center to train scientists in all aspects of atomic technology. In August 2013, outgoing Iranian nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani proclaimed that Iran has amassed some 18,000 functioning centrifuges, a number mostly corroborated by a May 2013 IAEA report which indicated Iran had installed roughly 16,600 centrifuges in two main facilities. The Islamic Republic continues to streamline the uranium enrichment process so that they can convert their more than 6,000 kilograms of low-enriched fissile material into high-grade, weapons-ready material. Analysts believe it could take Iran anywhere from a number of weeks to nine months – from the moment an order is given – to assemble an explosive device and reduce it to the dimensions of a missile payload.

Iran also continues to develop its arsenal of long range missiles.  It already has weapons capable of reaching Israel, parts of Eastern and Southern Europe, the Arabian peninsula, and American bases in the Middle East. In July 2012, a report released by the US government and signed by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta showed evidence that Iran is continually boosting the accuracy and lethality of its existing missile systems.  These improvements are in tandem with regular ballistic-missile training that “continues throughout the country” and the addition of “new ships and submarines,” the report found. Intelligence reports from 2013 estimate that Iran may be technically capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015.

There is little disagreement as to the intentions of the Iranians.

Already since the release of its November 2011 report, the IAEA had confirmed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and reiterated the need to address this situation as soon as possible. At the time, Director General Yukiya Amano said, “It is my responsibility to alert the world. From the indicators I had, I draw the conclusion that it is time to call the world’s attention to this risk.”

The question has now become how to respond.

As U.S. President Barack Obama noted, the threat from a nuclear Iran affects not just “one country’s interests or two countries’ interests … [but] the entire internatioanl community,” and therefore cooperative international measures must be taken to stop Iran’s progress.

In the United States, President Obama has imposed sanctions against companies doing business with Iran, the Treasury Department has worked to freeze Iranian financial assets and new measures have been passed by Congress to halt transactions with Iran’s Central Bank. Obama’s administration has also made clear they will not accept containment of a nuclear Iran and have drawn red lines for possible military intervention. “The United States does not have a policy of contaiment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” President Obama noted in March 2013. “And I will repeat: All options are on the table.”

In Europe, a new sense of urgency over halting Iran’s nuclear program has taken hold since military analysts, such as Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin of the Center for Strategic Nuclear Forces, are convinced that a fully developed nuclear program “will most likely be able to threaten the whole of Europe.” France, Germany and Great Britain are spearheading European Union efforts to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. In January 2012, these efforts scored a major success when the EU voted to embargo Iranian oil imports and to freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank. “We will not accept Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has so far had no regard for its international obligations and is already exporting and threatening violence around its region,” British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint statement. Following this lead, in March 2012, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) cut off all business with Iran, effectively stopping transactions with nearly 30 Iranian banks and their subsidiaries worldwide.

Across the Arab Middle East, the Iranian nuclear program is also raising grave concerns, primarily with regards to Iran’s intentions for regional dominance. In 2009, then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said, “A nuclear armed Iran with hegemonic ambitions is the greatest threat to Arab nations today.” In 2011, Saudi Arabia government officials noted, “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons … If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us.” Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal expouned, noting that if Iran achieved nuclear weapons it would “lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences.” Those consequences are clear – nuclear proliferation across the Middle East. By mid-2013, at least twelve Arab nations, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the UAE had begun to explore nuclear energy.

For Israel  in particular, a nuclear armed Iran is not tolerable.  Not only would Iranian nuclear weapons create an existential threat to Israel’s existence, it would also limit Israel’s ability to protect itself from Iranian terror proxies such as Hezbollahand Hamas. IDF intelligence believes that Iranian proxy Hezbollah had amassed nearly 65,000 rockets and missiles within striking distance of Israel in southern Lebanon. Former-Minister of Defense Ehud Barak noted that if Iran gained a nuclear capability, then retaliating against an attack from Hamas or Hezbollah “would be tantamount to an attack on Iran,” and would thus restrict an aggressive range of operations. Therefore, in the words on PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel is “determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons; we leave all options on the table; and containment is definitely not an option.”

Despite the election of President Hassan Rouhani – a former member of Iran’s nuclear negotiation team that temporarily suspended the program in 2003 – to succeed the vitriolic Ahmadinejad, Iran is still closing in on its “immunity zone” – the point when its accumulated know-how, raw materials, experience and equipment would ensure that any military strike would fail in derailing the nuclear program.

It is well past time to more stringently implement an international sanctions regime sufficiently punitive to convince the Iranian leadership to abandon their project. In the absence of such sanctions, or if they are shown to be ineffective, a joint military response, as undesirable as it may be, will most likely be the only other option.

Original Source: jewishvirtuallibrary.org
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C.I. Desk of 4CM

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