Have you been paying attention to the recent developments in Iran? If you haven't, you should. Or you can check in periodically to this blog. I'm starting a new "Iran Watch" category, which I may develop into a separate blog. Stay tuned for details.
Secret services say Iran is trying to assemble a nuclear missle (The Guardian, Jan. 4, 2006)
The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western intelligence assessment of the country's weapons programmes.
Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions ... registered almost daily", the report seen by the Guardian concludes.
George Bush insists that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. So why, six years ago, did the CIA give the Iranians blueprints to build a bomb? (The Guardian, Jan. 5, 2006, an excerpt from James Risen's book State of War)
The story dates back to the Clinton administration and February 2000, when one frightened Russian scientist walked Vienna's winter streets. The Russian had good reason to be afraid. He was walking around Vienna with blueprints for a nuclear bomb.
... The Russian's assignment from the CIA was to pose as an unemployed and greedy scientist who was willing to sell his soul - and the secrets of the atomic bomb - to the highest bidder. By hook or by crook, the CIA told him, he was to get the nuclear blueprints to the Iranians. They would quickly recognise their value and rush them back to their superiors in Tehran.
... On paper, Merlin [the codename for the operation] was supposed to stunt the development of Tehran's nuclear programme by sending Iran's weapons experts down the wrong technical path. The CIA believed that once the Iranians had the blueprints and studied them, they would believe the designs were usable and so would start to build an atom bomb based on the flawed designs. But Tehran would get a big surprise when its scientists tried to explode their new bomb. Instead of a mushroom cloud, the Iranian scientists would witness a disappointing fizzle. The Iranian nuclear programme would suffer a humiliating setback, and Tehran's goal of becoming a nuclear power would have been delayed by several years. In the meantime, the CIA, by watching Iran's reaction to the blueprints, would have gained a wealth of information about the status of Iran's weapons programme, which has been shrouded in secrecy.
The Russian studied the blueprints the CIA had given him. Within minutes of being handed the designs, he had identified a flaw. "This isn't right," he told the CIA officers gathered around the hotel room. "There is something wrong." His comments prompted stony looks, but no straight answers from the CIA men. No one in the meeting seemed surprised by the Russian's assertion that the blueprints didn't look quite right, but no one wanted to enlighten him further on the matter, either.
... In Vienna, however, the Russian unsealed the envelope with the nuclear blueprints and included a personal letter of his own to the Iranians. No matter what the CIA told him, he was going to hedge his bets. There was obviously something wrong with the blueprints - so he decided to mention that fact to the Iranians in his letter. They would certainly find flaws for themselves, and if he didn't tell them first, they would never want to deal with him again.
The Russian was thus warning the Iranians as carefully as he could that there was a flaw somewhere in the nuclear blueprints, and he could help them find it. At the same time, he was still going through with the CIA's operation in the only way he thought would work.
Iran Nuclear Move Concerns Europe (BBC News, Jan. 9, 2006)
Iranian officials say they will remove seals at nuclear facilities, ending a two-year suspension of research.
The German foreign minister described the developments as "very, very ominous", and the Austrian chancellor held open the possibility of sanctions.
Western countries fear Iran's nuclear programme could be used to make atomic bombs, but Tehran denies such a goal.
It says the project is for the peaceful production of energy only.
Target Iran (commentary by Arnaud De Borchgrave, The Washington Times, Jan. 9, 2006)
If anyone has any doubt about the kind of nuclear work Iran has been doing for the past 18 years, it must be a case of naivete compounded by gullibility.
Nor should there be any uncertainty about what Iran's mullahocracy would do with a nuclear weapon. All of Iran's leaders since the Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini replaced the shah in February 1979 have made it clear the objective is Israel's destruction.
In Iran's last presidential race, Western governments and media favored Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He was a "known" quantity and a "moderate." Michael Rubin, editor of the Middle East Quarterly and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, burst that soap bubble.
Four years ago, when he took the podium at Tehran University to deliver the Friday sermon, Mr. Rafsanjani predicted the Islamic world one day would be equipped with nuclear weapons only Israel possesses in the Middle East. At that point, he explained, "the strategy of the imperialists will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything." And, added the "moderate" former president of Iran, "It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."
Another prominent "moderate," courted by Europe's democracies, was former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. "In the Koran," he declared in a homily Oct. 24, 2000, "God commanded to kill the wicked and those who do not see the rights of the oppressed."
The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control: Iran Nuclear Milestones
As noted on Little Green Footballs, here is an excerpt from a fascinating conversation between Father Joseph Fessio, a student of Pope Benedict XVI and a Roman Catholic scholar, and radio host Hugh Hewitt:
JF: Well, the thesis that was proposed by this scholar was that Islam can enter into the modern world if the Koran is reinterpreted by taking the specific legislation, and going back to the principles, and then adapting it to our times, especially with the dignity that we ascribe to women, which has come through Christianity, of course. And immediately, the Holy Father, in his beautiful calm but clear way, said well, there’s a fundamental problem with that, because he said in the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Mohammed, but it’s an eternal word. It’s not Mohammed’s word. It’s there for eternity the way it is. There’s no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it, whereas in Christianity, and Judaism, the dynamism’s completely different, that God has worked through His creatures. And so, it is not just the word of God, it’s the word of Isaiah, not just the word of God, but the word of Mark. He’s used His human creatures, and inspired them to speak His word to the world, and therefore by establishing a Church in which he gives authority to His followers to carry on the tradition and interpret it, there’s an inner logic to the Christian Bible, which permits it and requires it to be adapted and applied to new situations. I was...I mean, Hugh, I wish I could say it as clearly and as beautifully as he did, but that’s why he’s Pope and I’m not, okay? That’s one of the reasons. One of others, but his seeing that distinction when the Koran, which is seen as something dropped out of Heaven, which cannot be adapted or applied, even, and the Bible, which is a word of God that comes through a human community, it was stunning.
HH: And so, is it fair to describe him as a pessimist about the prospect of modernity truly engaging Islam in the way modernity has engaged Christianity?
JF: Well, the other way around.
HH: Yes. I meant that.
JF: Yeah, that Christianity can engage modernity just like it did...the Jews did Egypt, or Christians did to Greece, because we can take what’s good there, and we can elevate it through the revelation of Christ in the Bible. But Islam is stuck. It’s stuck with a text that cannot be adapted, or even be interpreted properly.
Christians (and everyone else) should understand this important point.
In Iran, the government is controlled by Shi'ite Muslim holy men. Their worldview, lifted directly from the teachings of the Koran, commands them to destroy the enemies of Allah and to destroy those who bring suffering and injustice to Allah's people. Iran's immediate goal is the destruction of Israel, whom they see as a cancer, spreading poison throughout the Muslim holy lands. And they would eagerly supply their technology to Al Qaeda or any other group currently engaged in holy warfare with the United States, whom they see as the primary enabler of Israel.
These are serious times. And when President Bush named Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Iran, and North Korea the "Axis of Evil," he wasn't joking.