Archive for December 9, 2021

Mossad is preparing to strike at the heart of Iran’s nuclear programme

December 9, 2021

Oh how I hope and pray this is true…

A very interesting article.

Mossad is preparing to strike at the heart of Iran’s nuclear programme

Iran is about to be hit by a fresh wave of Mossad operations, sources in Jerusalem have told me. This is the result of a change in Israeli policy: from now on, when Tehran’s proxy militias make trouble in the region, the Jewish state will retaliate on Iranian soil. ‘No more attacking the tentacles of the octopus,’ one source said. ‘Now we will go for the head.’

For the foreseeable future, I can confirm, this will not take the form of air raids, missile strikes or drone attacks. Instead, Israel’s feared secret service has been told to carry out pinpoint operations inside the Islamic Republic, inflicting surgical but devastating punishment.

Mossad’s impressive capabilities in Iran were demonstrated by the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November, the full details of which I exposed for the first time in February . A one-ton robot machine gun was smuggled into the country piece-by-piece and used to remotely kill the nuclear scientist as he drove to his holiday home. The spy agency’s capabilities were also demonstrated by the audacious theft of Iran’s entire archive of nuclear secrets from a warehouse outside Tehran in 2018.

As if more evidence was needed, this week I revealed the secret details of three operations – two at a nuclear plant in Natanz and one at the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) factory in Karaj – that were planned by 1,000 Mossad personnel [!!!] and executed over 18 months of sabotage.

The first hit, in July 2020, was perhaps the most audacious. The previous year, spies posing as construction suppliers had sold the Iranian authorities materials that were used to build the Iran Centre for Advanced Centrifuges (ICAC) at Natanz, a highly secure nuclear facility in central Iran. Twelve months later, the explosives that Mossad had hidden in the supplies were detonated, destroying the warehouse and the centrifuges it contained.

But there remained the underground hall at Natanz, one of the most secure sites in the Islamic Republic. Named A1000, it housed up to 5,000 centrifuges and was protected from air assault by 40 feet of concrete and iron. This time, Israeli spies managed to persuade the scientists working in this inner sanctum to work for them. Thinking that they were helping a group of international dissidents, the scientists collected explosives that were smuggled into the facility by drone and in a catering lorry, and planted them in the subterranean A1000 hall. The ensuing explosion, which came in April, demolished 90 per cent of the centrifuges there, putting the complex out of action for nine months.

Finally, there was a missile attack on the TESA factory in Karaj in June. The payload was dispatched by a quadcopter drone, weighing the same as a motorcycle, which had been smuggled into the country piece by piece by Israeli spies and their Iranian agents.

Why does all this matter? This week, negotiations between the Iranian regime and Western powers have resumed in Vienna. There is widespread concern that Tehran is playing for time while continuing its progress towards a bomb.

In recent weeks, Israel has shared intelligence with its western allies suggesting that Iran is preparing the technical groundwork to enrich uranium to 90 per cent purity, the level required to produce a nuclear weapon, while paying lip service to a deal. This would be a gamechanger in the balance of power in the region and the world – and an intolerable existential threat to Israel.

When it comes to finding a diplomatic solution to this crisis, Jerusalem would be forgiven for lacking confidence in the international community. In his desperation to undo the Trump legacy and reheat Obamaism, President Biden – the leader of the free world – has dispatched a negotiating team that seems to abide by the principle of ‘give in first, beg for lollypops later.’

Britain, by contrast, has held a stronger line. The last couple of months have been marked by much warmth between London and Jerusalem; both Naftali Bennett and foreign minister Yair Lapid have enjoyed friendly visits to London, and Britain has passed new legislation to ban Hamas’ political wing as well as its military one. When signing a wide-ranging bilateral trade, defence and technology deal with Mr Lapid last week, foreign secretary Liz Truss vowed: ‘We will work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power.’

But as solid as British support may be, it may not be enough to prevent the United States from signing an execrable ‘less for less’ deal, which would allow Iran to receive sanctions relief while retaining the progress it has made towards a bomb. And partners such as Russia and China cannot be relied upon to keep their spanners out of the works.

The stakes could not be higher. Sometimes it seems like public opinion is somnambulant on the matter. We are facing the spectre of a fanatical, Islamist regime – the world’s foremost sponsor of terror, both in the Middle East and across the world – going nuclear. Would it launch a strike at Israel, which it has promised to wipe off the map? What would be the consequences of that? Would Israel and the Gulf States launch a pre-emptive strike? What would America do? Where would all this leave Britain, and our interests overseas? Even the Iranian use of nuclear weapons tactically in Syria or elsewhere is not unimaginable. And that would be an entirely different crisis. Hand-in-hand, the world is sleep-walking into a moment when Jerusalem decides that the risk has become unbearable, air strikes are launched, and full-scale war breaks out.

But in the meantime, the Mossad is coming. That was the coded message that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gave to Iran last week. ‘They make us bleed without paying a price for it,’ the Prime Minister said. ‘We have to get to the dispatchers.’

Retaliating directly on Iranian soil enables Mossad to flex its muscles and send a message, creating more fear and confusion in Tehran. This will prepare the way for further sabotage operations on its nuclear facilities. It is vital that this succeeds. The sobering truth is that if international negotiations fail, and Israel’s spies fail, then war is all but certain. For those who aspire to live in peace, rarely has Israel – and the world – needed the Mossad more.

UAE, Saudis seek détente with Tehran, fed up with US-Israel slow motion on nuclear-armed Iran

December 9, 2021

United Arab Emirates and Saudi leaders took significant steps this week towards rapprochement with Tehran, backing away overtly for the first time from the Iran policies pursued by US and Israel. Nonetheless, little notice was attracted by the Emirati National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed’s visit to Tehran on Monday, Dec. 6 and his meetings with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Shamkhani and President Ibrahim Raisi. Likewise, the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (MbS)’s tour of Gulf capitals kicked off at Muscat, Oman, was practically unreported.

However, according to DEBKAfile’s Iran and Gulf sources, those trips were the first formal steps of a major policy shift in the region that reflects disenchantment with the US and Israel. The two leading Gulf rulers, MbS and the UAE’s Sheikh Muhammed bin Zayed (MbZ), feel they cannot rely on either the US or Israel for protection against Iran’s machinations or for aborting its race for a nuclear weapon. They appear therefore to have decided to abandon their anti-Iran policy and opted instead for rapprochement.
Two events stirred this radical change of orientation, according to the experienced Arab affairs analyst Abdel Bari Atwan: One was America’s failed pullout from Afghanistan and the other was the demonstration of Israel’s military shortcomings in the Guardian of the Walls operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, earlier this year. Hamas was able to keep the rockets coming over Israel, notwithstanding the massive deployment of the highly prized Iron Dome anti-rocket system. To Gulf leaders, this shortcoming translated into Israel’s inability to withstand an attack by Iran’s ballistic missiles. They also took note of what they perceived as Israel’s failure to bring the Biden administration on board for realistic measures to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Tehran, for its part, is parading its newfound advantage: NSA Shamkhani and his Emirati visitor were photographed against the background of a large wall map showing a vast, dominant Iran alongside barely discernible Arab Gulf states. (see photo) Iran is clearly not even waiting to acquire a nuclear weapon, or the outcome of its nuclear talks with the world powers in Vienna, before proclaiming itself the region’s dominant power.

Following this groundbreaking meeting: Shamkhani said: “Warm and friendly relations between the countries remain a priority…  that shouldn’t be affected by other nations” – a dig at the UAE’s ties with the US and Israel, whereas President Raisi commented: “There should be no barrier in relations of the two Muslim nations of Iran and the Emirates.” Sheikh Tahnoon responded by inviting the Iranian president for a state visit to Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi ruler followed a different path to Iran. In Muscat, he asked the Omani ruler Sultan Haitham Bin Tareq to act as mediator between Riyadh and Tehran in the hope of a deal that would also end the never-ending civil war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia is deeply embroiled. The Omanis have long experience as a power broker. They were active in the backchannel talks between the Obama administration and Iran that resulted in the 2015 nuclear deal.

Israel, US to discuss military drills to prep for worst-case Iran scenario, US says

December 9, 2021

As Gantz heads to Washington and negotiations falter in Vienna, American official tells Reuters military chiefs will talk exercises for possible attack on Iran nuclear facilities

By TOI STAFF and AGENCIESToday, 5:35 am  

Israeli F-15s accompany a US B-1B Lancer over Israel as part of a presence patrol above the US Central Command’s area of responsibility, October 30, 2021. (US Air Force/Senior Airman Jerreht Harris)

Israeli F-15s accompany a US B-1B Lancer over Israel as part of a presence patrol above the US Central Command’s area of responsibility, October 30, 2021. (US Air Force/Senior Airman Jerreht Harris)

Israeli and American military leaders are set to discuss possible military drills to practice destroying Iranian nuclear facilities in a potential worst-case scenario, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

The comment came as the faltering nuclear talks were set to resume on Thursday in Vienna, and as Defense Minister Benny Gantz flew to Washington for meetings with top US military leaders.

US and European representatives at the nuclear talks voiced pessimism and frustration over Iran’s demands last week.

The possible military drills would prepare for a scenario with Iran in which negotiations fail and US and Israeli leaders request a military strike, the US official told the Reuters news agency.

Ahead of takeoff for the US, Gantz said, “Iran is a threat to world peace and seeks to become an existential threat to Israel.”Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

“At the meetings, we will discuss possible courses of action to ensure that it stops its attempt to reach the nuclear arena and expand its activities in the region,” he said.

Gantz said he will meet with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The US official did not give details about the potential preparations.

“We’re in this pickle because Iran’s nuclear program is advancing to a point beyond which it has any conventional rationale,” the official told Reuters.

In October, US military leaders briefed White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on military options for halting Iran’s nuclear program, the report said.IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, left, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, on October 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Wednesday report said the Israel Defense Forces will hold a large-scale exercise over the Mediterranean in the spring with dozens of aircraft simulating a strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

In January, army chief Aviv Kohavi announced that he was instructing the military to draw up fresh plans for a strike against Iran’s nuclear program. The IDF received billions of shekels of additional funding to prepare for such an attack as part of the recently passed national budget.

Last month, Kohavi told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the army “is accelerating operational planning and preparedness to deal with Iran and the military nuclear threat.”

Though Israeli officials have stressed that Israel could carry out a strike without coordinating with the United States, some analysts have cast doubts on the IDF’s ability to do so, as several Iranian facilities are buried deep enough underground that it would require particularly powerful munitions, which currently only the US possesses.

Reports in recent weeks have indicated that the army is unprepared for dealing with Iran and months or more away from an actionable plan.Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, on December 3, 2021. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

Talks set to resume in Vienna

The European Union, which is coordinating the indirect talks between Washington and Tehran, confirmed they would resume Thursday in Vienna after a break of a few days.

A US State Department spokesman said Wednesday that the US will swiftly determine whether Tehran is serious about the negotiations.

“We should know in pretty short order if the Iranians are going… to negotiate in good faith,” said the spokesman, Ned Price, warning that “the runway is getting very, very short for negotiations.”

The talks began in April but were suspended in June due to the election of a new Iranian president, only to resume last week.

After five days of talks, the United States said Iran did not appear to be serious about making progress. American and European representatives both accused the Iranians of having backtracked on previous agreements since the spring.

European diplomats urged Tehran to come back with “realistic proposals” after Iran’s delegation last week made numerous demands that were deemed unacceptable by the other parties to the accord — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. Even Russia, which has stronger relations with Iran, questioned Iran’s commitment to the process.

Washington has warned it will not let Tehran block negotiations for much longer while developing its nuclear program at the same time, but has not yet laid out an ultimatum.

The next few days look set to see a last-chance diplomatic push, although it appears ever more unlikely that the talks will lead to any breakthrough.

“It will not always be in our interest to seek a return to the JCPOA,” Price said, using the formal title of the landmark 2015 accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The deal aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear program to ensure it could not develop an atomic weapon, in exchange for sanctions relief for Tehran.

It began unraveling in 2018 when then US president Donald Trump pulled out and reimposed sanctions, prompting Iran to start exceeding limits on its nuclear program the following year.

Iran has ramped up its nuclear program again in recent months by enriching uranium beyond the thresholds allowed in the agreement. Tehran has also restricted monitors from the UN atomic watchdog from accessing its nuclear facilities, raising concerns about what the country is doing behind closed doors.

US President Joe Biden has indicated that Washington is willing to return to the deal.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program is peaceful.