Archive for May 22, 2019

Iran orders its proxies to ‘prepare for war’ – TV7 Israel News 22.05.19

May 22, 2019

 

 

Pentagon: Iran threat ‘on hold’ thanks to US response

May 22, 2019

Source: Pentagon: Iran threat ‘on hold’ thanks to US response | The Times of Israel

‘Our steps were very prudent,’ Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan says of US deployment of ships, bombers to region amid intelligence warnings of Iranian attack plans

The USS Abraham Lincoln sails south in the Suez canal near Ismailia toward the Persian Gulf, May 9, 2019. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

WASHINGTON – Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan said Tuesday that the United States had “put on hold” the Iranian threat to its interests, following a spike in tensions that has seen the US dispatch bomber aircraft to the Gulf.

“I think our steps were very prudent and we’ve put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans,” the acting defense secretary said, as he prepared to brief lawmakers on regional tensions.

“I’d say we’re in a period where the threat remains high and our job is to make sure that there is no miscalculation by the Iranians,” Shanahan added.

His comments come amid a war of words between Washington and Tehran as both sides accuse the other of dangerously ratcheting up tensions.

Then-deputy defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, right, listens as US President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House, in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The Pentagon accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf and dispatched B-52 bombers to the region on May 7 after US intelligence reported Iranian “threats” to US and allied forces.

The nature of the threat has remained vague, although it reportedly included sightings of missiles being loaded on Iranian dhows in the Gulf.

Several tankers in the Gulf, including two Saudi vessels, were reportedly sabotaged as well.

Members of Congress, including some Republicans, have expressed skepticism about the intelligence, however, as well as worries about the potential for miscalculation.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat maneuvers in the Persian Gulf while an oil tanker is seen in background, July 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

“I really want to underscore the credibility of the intelligence,” Shanahan said, adding that he would be giving lawmakers a more detailed briefing about it.

Asked later what he meant by putting the threat “on hold,” Shanahan told reporters, “There haven’t been any attacks on Americans. I would consider that a hold.”

“That doesn’t mean that the threats that we’ve previously identified have gone away,” he said.

“Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region.”

 

Iran inches towards restarting nuclear program after attacking Gulf oil infrastructure – DEBKAfile

May 22, 2019

Source: Iran inches towards restarting nuclear program after attacking Gulf oil infrastructure – DEBKAfile

How big a threat is Iran’s decision on Monday, May 20, to increase fourfold production of low-grade enriched uranium and halt the “modernization” of its Arak plant?

Iran has stocked no more than 15-16 kg of low-grade, 3.67pc enriched uranium, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources. This is far below the 300kg cap set by the JCPOA – the nuclear accord Iran signed with six world powers in 2015. It would take Iran’s enrichment plants months to reach that maximum amount, and only then if advanced centrifuges were put to work, in direct violation of that accord.

Therefore, the announcement of a fourfold production boost by an official at the Natanz enrichment site on Monday has little practical relevance at this time for Iran’s nuclear development program.

As for the centrifuges, Iran is allowed to operate 6,000 outdated machines at the Natanz plant in central Iran. Another 19,000 centrifuges, some advanced versions, stand idle, in line with the pact’s provisions. Getting all those machines spinning again after four years of unemployment presents a major technological challenge, for which it is hard to see Iran having the manpower and industrial resources to hand.  Natanz is also handicapped by tours of inspection by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Commission and military surveillance satellites some of them Israeli, watching overhead. Under these conditions, Tehran will find it difficult to take uranium enrichment up to the next 20pc level on the way to weapons grade fuel. However, as recently as last December, Ali Akhbar Salehi, head of Iran’s nuclear energy commission, spoke of 1,044 centrifuges “currently ready” at Fordow (the once-secret underground enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom). “If the establishment wants, we will restart 20pc uranium enrichment there.”

The Fordow centrifuges waiting at Fordow are faster than the machines at Natanz. For now, there is no sign that enrichment there has indeed resumed.

Also covered by the JCPOA was the Arak heavy water reactor, which can produce plutonium. Under the pact, Iran was obliged to convert the plant to civilian use. Tehran never met this obligation. Instead, it performed certain deceptive steps which kept the Arak reactor inactive while still capable of restarting its prohibited functions. This is what was meant by Iran’s Supreme National Council statement on My 8 that “Iran would cease implementation of measures related to the modernization of the Arak Heavy Water Reactor.” Those “modernization” measures were never in fact implemented in full and have left Arak still capable of resuming plutonium production if its functions ae fully restored.

That, too, has not happened thus far. Our military and intelligence sources note, therefore, that, after announcing its partial withdrawal from the nuclear pact, Tehran is moving forward cautiously towards reviving the banned elements of its nuclear program. Preparations are being slowly put in place so that in the event of the confrontation with Washington escalating sharply, those preparations could spring into execution at short notice.