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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Intelligence assessment: Sanctions will fail and US will not stop Iran

The Jerusalem Post is reporting this morning that an Israeli intelligence assessment indicates that sanctions will fail and that the United States will not attack Iran to stop its nuclear program. That means that in the absence of an Israeli strike, we will be facing a nuclear-armed Iran by the end of the decade. The assessment contradicts an interview Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave to the Post in late September in which he indicated that President Bush would stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

According to the intelligence assessment, even if sanctions were imposed on Iran today, they would not be effective, and that President Bush will not be able to order a strike against Iran with the Democrats in control of Congress. Forgive me for saying so, but I don't think Israeli intelligence fully understands how the US government system works. I don't know whether President Bush really would order a strike against Iran, but he certainly could without going to Congress first, and as a lame duck President, he would likely face very little political fallout from doing so. While Congress has the power to declare war, the President is the Commander in Chief, as everyone who was around in the 1960's will recall from Vietnam. The President can always take action and ask Congress later. Bill Clinton did that in Libya.

Iran has said it intends to activate 3,000 centrifuges by late 2006, and then increase the program to 54,000 centrifuges. Iranian officials say that would produce enough enriched uranium to fuel a 1,000-megawatt reactor, such as that being built by Russia and nearing completion at Bushehr.

Experts estimate Iran would need only 1,500 centrifuges to produce a nuclear weapon. Right now, it has 164 active centrifuges and has just produced an experiment with an additional 164 centrifuges.

Meanwhile, on Monday, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that the six powers seeking a UN resolution on Iran's nuclear program were nearing agreement on a text. But the Russians are still opposed to sanctions to bring Iran into compliance.

Also yesterday, French Socialist Presidential candidate Segolene Royal said that she is opposed to Iran having nuclear energy, even for 'peaceful' purposes. If Royal is elected President of France, she would be responsible for its foreign policy. Royal also said yesterday that if elected, she would not meet with Hamas members of the 'Palestinian Authority.' Royal's competitor for the Presidency, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarcozy, attacked Royal's five-day trip to the Middle East, alleging that it was "poorly prepared," "useless for peace" and "dangerous." Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie (she who wishes to shoot down Israeli planes on reconaissance missions in Lebanon) suggested that Royal may have endangered French lives in Lebanon, where France has 1,500 troops in the UN peacekeeping force monitoring the cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah. I understand that most of the Jewish community in France is backing Sarcozy and I gather that is due to his tough responses to the French intifada, but if there are readers in France who want to comment, or who want to refer me to French bloggers on the net, I would love to hear from you (in the comments section or by email).


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