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Saudi foreign minister: All bets off if Iran gets nuclear weapon

December 13, 2022

The nuclear talks have stalled with the focus shifting to the Russia-Ukraine war as well as domestic unrest in Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors would act to shore up their security if Tehran were to obtain nuclear weapons.

Indirect US-Iranian talks to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact between global powers and Iran, which Washington exited in 2018, stalled in September. The UN nuclear chief has voiced concern over a recent announcement by Tehran that it was boosting enrichment capacity.

“If Iran gets an operational nuclear weapon, all bets are off,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in an on-stage interview at the World Policy Conference in Abu Dhabi when asked about such a scenario.

“We are in a very dangerous space in the region…you can expect that regional states will certainly look towards how they can ensure their own security.”

The nuclear talks have stalled with Western powers accusing Iran of raising unreasonable demands and focus shifting to the Russia-Ukraine war as well as domestic unrest in Iran over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Though Riyadh remained “skeptical” about the Iran nuclear deal, Prince Faisal said it supported efforts to revive the pact “on condition that it be a starting point, not an end point” for a stronger deal with Tehran.

Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states have pressed for a stronger agreement that addresses their concerns about Shi’ite Iran’s missiles and drones program and network of regional proxies.

“The signs right now are not very positive unfortunately,” Prince Faisal said.

“We hear from the Iranians that they have no interest in a nuclear weapons program, it would be very comforting to be able to believe that. We need more assurance on that level.”

Iran says its nuclear technology is solely for civil purposes.

A senior Emirati official said on Saturday that there was an opportunity to revisit “the whole concept” of the nuclear pact given the current spotlight on Tehran’s weapons with Western states accusing Russia of using Iranian drones to attack targets in Ukraine. Iran and Russia deny the charges.

In Iran, Israel Has Everyone Rattled

September 14, 2022

Article from July, has some very interesting details in it. Taken from 27 July 2022.

Ever since Israel introduced a computer worm into Iranian computers that caused more than a thousand Iranian centrifuges to speed up and destroy themselves, in an operation that has entered history as Stuxnet, Israel has been performing acts of derring-do that have, through cyberwarfare, sabotage, and assassinations, rattled Iran’s leaders. Between 2010 and 2012, four of Iran’s top nuclear scientists were assassinated, one after the other, in the middle of Tehran traffic, by a man (or sometimes two) on a motorbike who pulled up alongside their cars and let loose a volley of shots, then rode off through that traffic. None of the killers has been found. In 2018, 20 Mossad agents managed to break into a nondescript building in central Tehran, blast their way through 32 steel doors, and seize the entire nuclear archive of Iran, some 100,000 documents, which they managed to bring back to Israel for analysis, and also to share its information about heretofore unknown nuclear sites with the IAEA. In 2020 and 2021, Mossad agents again managed to sabotage nuclear facilities at Natanz; the second attack was on a facility that had been built deep underground. At the end of 2021 Mossad killed Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the nuclear scientist who was regarded as the “godfather” of Iran’s nuclear program.

And in recent months, Israel has renewed its campaign of assassination, killing nearly a half-dozen high-ranking officials belonging mainly to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. A report on these latest Israeli acts, and their effect on Iranian morale, can be found here: “Iranian politician says Israel ‘freely runs its operations’ in Tehran,” Times of Israel, July 19, 2022:

An Iranian politician indicated that many in his country feel Israel is operating freely in Tehran and targeting security operations with ease.

In a report published Tuesday in the UK-based Financial Times, an official cited only as a “reformist politician” was quoted as saying that “it feels as if Israel has established a large-scale organization in Tehran and freely runs its operations.”

The politician added: “Israel is clearly targeting Iran’s ‘highly secure’ image to tarnish its greatness in people’s eyes.”

A series of assassinations and attacks in Iran have been attributed to Israel in recent months, though Jerusalem rarely if ever publicly takes credit for such operations. But in a rare interview last week — and rarer yet comments on Israeli activity in enemy countries — National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata said Israel had “acted quite a lot in Iran over the past year.”

The Financial Times report noted a feeling of “anxiety at the highest levels of the Iranian establishment” over the series of Israeli-attributed attacks. In late June, the IRGC replaced its longtime intelligence chief in a move seen by many as a reaction to the suspected assassinations.

Iran is running scared. Every other month, it seems, the Israelis manage to kill another high official, or to hit another nuclear or non-nuclear facility, or place malware on Iranian computers. in the past, Iran has several times claimed to have “unearthed” a Mossad cell, but no names are ever produced, no prisoners paraded to confess on camera, and nothing more is heard about these so-called Mossad agents. Most analysts suspect that Iran has yet to find a single Israeli agent.

Nevertheless, Iranian officials told the UK newspaper that they are not looking to directly escalate tensions at the moment.

Of course, the key words here from Iran are “not looking to directly” escalate tensions. The Iranians want to conduct their regional aggression not “directly,” but through their two closest proxies, the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon. So far, Iran has supplied Hezbollah with 130,000 rockets and missiles that have been hidden in civilian areas all over southern Lebanon, and occasionally Hezbollah launches a rocket or drone toward Israel.

Iran’s policy remains to work with its proxy forces and we will not initiate any attacks against Israel if Israel doesn’t attack Lebanon,” a “regime insider” was quoted as saying. “It’s not wise for us to fight with Israel. And Zionists also show teeth to attack but their teeth are not sharp enough to go as far as striking Iran.”

Gen. Aviv Kochavi, head of the IDF, would beg to differ. Israel has been striking Iran relentlessly all along: what was Stuxnet, what were those eight targeted assassinations, what was that repeated sabotage of nuclear facilities in Natanz and Fordo, what are the continuing mysterious explosions at petrochemical plants and electric plants all over Iran, aif not examples of Israel “striking at Iran”?

In a similar report in The New York Times late last month, Iranian officials told the newspaper that Israel’s operations have had drastic and long-lasting effects.

The security breaches inside Iran and the vast scope of operations by Israel have really undermined our most powerful intelligence organization,” said former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi.

Unnamed Iranian officials also said at the time that “Israel’s spy network has infiltrated deep into the rank and file of Iran’s security circles.”

The fear is palpable in the ruling circles in Tehran. They are no longer bothering to hide it. The nonstop success of Mossad in its sabotage and assassination efforts has demoralized the Iranians. The “drastic and long-lasting effects” of Israeli deeds has made clear to the Iranians that “Israel’s spy network has infiltrated deep into the rank and file of Iran’s security circles.” Sitting in Tehran, whom can the ayatollahs, or the IRGC commanders, trust? Israel keeps hitting them here, there, and everywhere. It never claims responsibility; it doesn’t have to. Everyone knows who has been behind these attacks. Everyone wonders who else is part of this Mossad network, what Iranians are working with Mossad to undermine and weaken the regime. High officials, including at least one IRGC commander, have been arrested in a panicky show of force, but nothing has been proved, and it seems the Iranians are announcing that “Israeli agents have been arrested” just to persuade the public that “something is being done.” But not a single trial has yet been held of supposed Mossad agents, none of those agents have been named or paraded before the public. Iranian officials are trying, but failing, to put on a brave face about Iran’s supposed imperviousness to Israeli attacks, even as the Mossad keeps running circles around it. They have no idea where the next Israeli strike, or act of sabotage, or assassination will take place. Iran’s top clerics and military men are now deeply suspicious of one another. Whom they can trust? In whom can they confide? Mossad appears to be, to use Flaubert’s famous phrase, “présent partout, et visible nulle part” – everywhere present, but nowhere to be seen.

Damascus air base, Iranian warehouse said hit in alleged Israeli strikes

July 29, 2022

From a week ago.

Gotta love the bit about bad-blood between Iran-backed militias and Syrian forces.

Arabs always find a way to fight between themselves.

Strikes come as reports indicate Iranians co-opting bases, soldiers, with IRGC head reportedly visiting Syria recently to discuss bad blood between militias and regulars

Alleged Israeli strikes in Syria overnight targeted Iranian forces being hosted on Syrian military bases, according to an unverified report Friday, days after the head of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was reportedly in Syria for talks.

Israeli fighter jets struck areas near the Syrian capital Damascus shortly after midnight on Friday, killing three soldiers and wounding seven others, Syria’s official state media reported earlier.

Among the sites hit was a base in Damascus used by a brigade within Syria’s powerful Fourth Division, led by Maher Assad, brother of dictator Bashar Assad and considered by some to be an army within an army, Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya reported Friday.

Al Arabiya attributed the information to unspecified “sources.”

According to the outlet, members of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force militia host their own arms stores and warehouses on bases used by Syria’s Fourth Division and First Division, as well as the Syrian navy. The situation means some Syrian soldiers have wound up working as guards under de facto Iranian command, the outlet said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that eight people were killed in the strikes. The dead included three non-Syrians, two Syrians working with Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and three Syrians guarding an air defense battery. The state-run SANA news agency earlier reported three members of Syria’s military were killed.

The Britain-based opposition monitor, which relies on a network of informants inside Syria and has been criticized for having unclear funding sources, said the missiles hit intelligence offices at al-Mazzah air base in Syria’s capital and an Iranian warehouse in the southern Damascus suburb of Sayyidah Zaynab.

Images that circulated on social media purportedly from the site showed heavy damage to a building.

There was no comment on the strikes from the Israel Defense Forces, which does not comment on individual strikes, except for those in retaliation to specific attacks against Israel.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in the last decade, mostly to stymie attempts by Iranian forces to transfer weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, or establish a foothold on Israel’s northern frontier.

Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, who commands the IRGC, was in Syria last week to discuss the treatment of Iran-backed militias in the country, according to al-Arabiya, citing the same unspecified sources.

The report said the two also discussed deployment positioning.

Reports have indicated growing bad blood between Iran-backed militias and Syrian forces in Syria over the co-opting of Syrian soldiers as well as disputes over where certain groups deploy and who controls smuggling routes.

The last strike in Syria attributed to Israel was on July 6, when a Syrian soldier was reportedly killed in an Israeli drone strike near the border with Israel.

Before that, on July 2, Israel reportedly attacked a site in the town of al-Hamidiyah, south of Tartus, close to the border with Lebanon.

This Isn’t Obama’s Iran Deal. It’s Much, Much Worse

March 22, 2022

Whoa, worse than Obama. This doesn’t sound good.

The last thing the world needs is another nuclear-armed dictatorship flush with cash and attacking its neighbors. But that’s what President Biden and his Iran envoy Robert Malley are creating in the deal they are about to close in Vienna, according to career State Department sources.

Anyone seeking to gauge the imminent outcome of the international talks over Iran’s nuclear program being held in Vienna should take a look at reports from late January that three top U.S. diplomats had quit—largely in protest over the direction set by U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, who serves as the U.S. government’s chief negotiator.

Having served for two years in former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Iran Action Group, I knew that this development was tantamount to a public cry for an intervention. Such resignations—not of conservative dissenters, but of career staff and President Joe Biden’s own political appointees—should have been cause for Biden or Secretary Antony Blinken to recall Malley and investigate. Their failure to do so is a sign either of a troubling lack of attention to the talks, or else the possibility that Malley—who served in the same capacity under President Barack Obama when the first Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was originally negotiated and signed—has been given a free hand to negotiate whatever he wants, as long as he gets Iran to sign.

Evidence for the latter view can be gleaned from the fact that Blinken has reneged on his pledge that his Iran negotiating team would have “a diversity of views.” Instead, he has let Malley continue to concede issue after issue in Vienna. Multiple career officials view these capitulations as so detrimental to U.S. national security that they contacted me requesting that I rapidly share details of these concessions with Congress and the public in an effort to stop them.

Reports out of Vienna indicate that a deal could occur within the next few days. While some issues are still being ironed out—such as whether the United States will grant Russia immunity from any economic sanctions relating to Iran, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has publicly demanded—the details that follow have been conveyed to me as finalized. My subsequent discussions with foreign diplomats—including those directly involved and those outside but close to the negotiations—confirmed their claims. Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, who led negotiations on behalf of Russia, has crowed that “Iran got much more than it could expect. Much more,” and bragged about how Russia teamed up with China and Iran to get dozens of wins over the United States and European negotiating positions.

The list of concessions that follows is long, detailed, disturbing, but also somewhat technical. But this much is clear to me: The deal being negotiated in Vienna is dangerous to U.S. national security, to the stability of the Middle East, and to the Iranian people who suffer most under that brutal regime. The lack of evidence to justify a removal of U.S. sanctions is illegal, and the deal that will be foisted upon the world without the support of Congress will be illegitimate. This deal will not serve U.S. interests in either the short or long term.

With Robert Malley in the lead, the United States has promised to lift sanctions on some of the regime’s worst terrorists and torturers, on leading officials who have developed Iran’s WMD infrastructure, and has agreed to lift sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) itself. In exchange, Iran will receive fewer limitations than those imposed under the JCPOA, and the restrictions on its nuclear program will expire six years sooner than under the terms of the old deal. And that’s just the beginning.

The Biden administration is preparing to end sanctions under Executive Order (E.O.) 13876, known as the Supreme Leader’s Office E.O., as soon as the deal is finalized. This would lift sanctions on nearly all of the 112 people and entities sanctioned under that authority, even if they were sanctioned under other legal authorities as well. This move is significant because the United States has used this authority to sanction some of the most evil people you can possibly imagine. Malley and his Russian go-betweens in Vienna have agreed that these people should now be free to roam around the world despite their murderous pasts, unshackled from any restraints on their financing, and plotting new terror attacks.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, believe me: It isn’t. Let’s start with the terrorists, like Mohsen Rezaei, who was involved in the AMIA bombing in Argentina in 1994 that killed 85 people when he was commander-in-chief of the IRGC. Argentine authorities issued international warrants for his arrest, and he remains on Interpol’s Red Notice. Equally culpable in the AMIA bombing is Ali Akbar Velayati, who today serves as a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He was charged as being one of the “ideological masterminds” behind the attack. He also committed acts of terror in Syria, where he helped the Iranian regime extend credit lines to the brutal Assad regime. Under the nuclear impending deal, both Rezaei and Velayati would be removed from U.S. sanctions lists.

The victims of the Iranian regime span every single continent, but the terror suspects being desanctioned by the United States in particular have American blood on their hands—particularly IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, who led IRGC forces in Lebanon and Syria when Hezbollah bombed the Marines compound in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. service members, 58 French soldiers, and left hundreds more wounded.

Then there are the men like Ebrahim Raisi, who now reports to Supreme Leader Khamenei with the misleading title of president. Raisi participated in and ordered the execution of around 5,000 Iranians in the 1988 “Death Commissions” as a judge overseeing sham trials—including of young children—that typically lasted only a few minutes before guilty verdicts and death sentences were delivered. Raisi’s victims were loaded by forklifts in groups of six onto cranes and hanged every 30 minutes.

One of the few survivors “spared” was a woman who was taken to a torture chamber instead of to the crane on account of her pregnancy. She was repeatedly lashed and tortured by several men, and later said she remembered each of their faces, which were etched in her mind. She could not forget that of one young and callous man in particular: Ebrahim Raisi. Under the new nuclear deal, U.S. sanctions imposed against Raisi will be lifted.

The deal also lifts sanctions (which I was personally involved in imposing) against Ahmad Jannati, one of the regime’s most powerful and brutal clerics. Jannati is primarily responsible for rigging the country’s elections as chairman of the Guardian Council and Assembly of Experts. But in his spare time, he leads massive rallies in “Death to America/England/Israel” chants. Jannati routinely pushes for the regime to kill protesters. “I thank the judiciary chief for executing two protesters,” he said in 2010 in the aftermath of the Green Movement, “and urge him to execute others if they do not give up such protests.” That fervor has not changed since the early days of the regime. When Jannati was told a prison in Khuzestan province was filling up with dissidents, he volunteered to go serve there as a “judge.” He proudly recounted: “I got busy working … for there was some doubt whether we should execute them all or not.”

Then there is their master, Khamenei himself, who is ultimately responsible for every act of terror and murder committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. We know that Khamenei has personally ordered the massacre of Iranians by his security forces. In November 2019, as brave Iranians took to the streets to protest the 40 years of corruption and oppression at the hands of the clerics, Khamenei assembled his top security team together and told them: “The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order.” In the ensuing days, about 1,500 Iranians were killed by the regime’s brute squads, including dozens of children and hundreds of women. This mass murderer will also be free of sanctions.

One of the most challenging responsibilities I had in the State Department was directing the human rights portfolio. For two years, I was in charge of documenting massacres like the one that Khamenei ordered, combing through biographies and photos of torture victims, including children, with bullet holes in their heads. I hope to never see such things again, but I fear that because of this deal, we all will.

Sometimes, in the day or two after the United States placed sanctions on such men, I would get a phone call or email from an Iranian who lost a loved one because of them. Many said it was the first time in years that they felt they had received a modicum of justice—that their pain had been heard in Washington—and they profusely thanked the United States. Sanctions are not merely economic, political, or diplomatic tools—they speak truth to evil.

If you hadn’t heard of such crimes before, it’s mostly thanks to a man named Javad Zarif, who served as the regime’s chief propagandist from 2013-2021. He had the misleading title of foreign minister, but that wasn’t his role in the regime. Zarif had little power to negotiate deals or set the foreign policy of the regime—that’s the IRGC’s job—so he was tasked with fluffing reporters and think tankers in Europe and the United States in the hopes of deceiving them about the regime’s true nature and radical intentions.

He also readily defended the regime’s executions of gay people. In 2019, Zarif was asked by a brave German reporter, “Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?” “Our society has moral principles,” Zarif responded, “and we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed.” In plain language, Zarif was covering up for the fact that his regime has executed thousands of gay Iranians—between 4,000 and 6,000 according to some estimates. Zarif’s involvement in the regime’s international terror apparatus earned him U.S. sanctions in 2019. Those will be gone, too.

But the pending nuclear deal doesn’t just lift sanctions on people who come and go from power. This deal lifts sanctions on the various economic entities that fuel the regime’s machinery of repression. Most notably, it would lift sanctions on Khamenei’s personal slush funds known as “bonyads,” including Astan Quds Razavi and the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, which confiscated houses and billions of dollars from political dissidents and religious minorities to enrich Khamenei and his goons. Also free from restrictions will be the Bonyad Mostazafan, a massive conglomerate that systematically confiscated property from Jews and Bahai’s after 1979. Bonyad Mostazafan is enmeshed with the IRGC and served as a corruption network used to enrich top Iranian terrorists. All these groups and men have been sanctioned under E.O. 13876, the Supreme Leader’s Office sanctions authority, which the White House is preparing to end.

It’s important to note here that the Supreme Leader’s Office EO is in no way related to Iran’s nuclear program, and the removal of these sanctions under a so-called “nuclear deal” is a farce. The Trump administration lawyers who drafted this executive order were quite clear when we released it in 2019: It was a response to actions taken by Iran and its proxies to destabilize the Middle East, promote international terrorism, and advance Iran’s ballistic missile program. It was issued in response to Iran’s attack against U.S. military assets and civilian vessels.

The EO’s impending repeal makes clear that what Biden and Malley have in mind is not merely, or even mainly, a “nuclear deal” with Iran—it is an appeasement agreement that unshackles the Islamic Republic from any significant economic restrictions, regardless of whether it will enrich the regime’s apparatuses of terror.

Sanctions will be lifted on huge swaths of the regime’s economic and financial arms—close to 40 major entities—that support Iran’s terror, repression, and WMD infrastructure. These sanctions have not been “inconsistent with the JCPOA,” which is the justification that Blinken and Malley have claimed as justification for their repeal. The administration is lifting sanctions on economic arms of the Mehr Eqtesad network and Bonyad Taavon Basij, for example, which directly funds the Basij Resistance Force that recruits and trains child soldiers forced into combat.

The U.S. is not lifting sanctions on the Basij itself (which was the security entity responsible for killing most of the 1,500 Iranians in November 2019) because Iranian negotiators didn’t particularly care—they just wanted sanctions on the funding mechanisms lifted because that’s what actually matters. And Malley obliged. While serving as the mailed fist of the regime’s repression and brutalization of its own people, the Basij play no role whatsoever in Iran’s nuclear program.

Sanctions will also be lifted on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and the National Development Fund (NDF), which were sanctioned under counterterrorism authorities for providing billions of dollars to the IRGC, the Quds Force, and Hezbollah. The CBI and NDF were sanctioned after Iran brazenly attacked energy infrastructure in eastern Saudi Arabia in September 2019, an act of war. These organizations still fund terrorism.

The deal will also lift sanctions on the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) that fund the Quds Force, which under Qassem Soleimani’s leadership was directly responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis and for the death of at least 603 Americans in Iraq from 2003-2011.

The Central Bank, NDF, NIOC, and NITC were all sanctioned under counterterrorism authorities approved by career interagency lawyers, including from the Department of Justice and Department of the Treasury. These sanctions came from a rigorous interagency process that ensured we would not impose them haphazardly; but once such a determination is made, they are not supposed to be lifted until it can be proven the sanctioned entities longer support terrorism. To be clear: They are. But Malley apparently found a way to badger and bully the career lawyers into submission so that these terror financiers will now be free from sanctions, too.

Perhaps most troubling is Malley’s persistent attempt to remove sanctions on the IRGC, which has plotted and carried out terrorist attacks in 35 countries around the world. As Pompeo disclosed last year, the IRGC is currently providing safe haven and logistical support for al-Qaida inside Iran. When Malley initially made an interagency request to remove the IRGC from the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list, he met severe resistance from startled career officials across government. Nevertheless, he persisted.

Instead of demanding that the Iranians cease conducting and supporting terrorism, Malley obliged repeated Iranian entreaties to remove the IRGC’s terror designation. At first, he proposed that it could be exchanged for an Iranian commitment to future talks on the terrorism and “regional issues” files. The Iranian negotiators and their Russian facilitators couldn’t believe their luck, and asked for more. They demanded that the concession must be unconditional, and that no future talks would be acceptable. Of course, a promise of future talks is all but meaningless given the American capitulation in Vienna. Either way, a foreign diplomat recently confirmed to me that the IRGC Foreign Terrorist Organization delisting has indeed been finalized.

So what have we received in exchange for all these concessions to the most vile men and institutions in Iran? Has the regime come clean about its clandestine nuclear activities or committed to stop nuclear enrichment? Has the regime committed to stop supporting terror and taking American hostages? The short answer on all counts is no.

The JCPOA’s sunset clauses have not been extended at all. Some JCPOA restrictions, like the United Nations arms embargo on Iran for importing or exporting conventional weapons, have already expired. All meaningful restrictions will expire over the next nine years. Iran will not make any concessions on its ballistic missile activity, its terrorist activity, its support for proxy groups, or its hostage-taking from the United States and other countries. But it will get money anyways—lots of it.

Iran is set to get access to a massive windfall of cash: My latest estimate (derived from figures declassified during my tenure at the State Department) is $90 billion in access to foreign exchange reserves, and then a further $50-$55 billion in extra revenue each year from higher oil and petrochemical exports, with no restrictions on how or where the money can be spent.

Personally, the most troubling transfer of funds will be the $7 billion ransom payment the United States is preparing to pay for the release of four Americans from an Iranian jail. Now, let me be clear: I would be extremely glad to bring these Americans back home safely as quickly as possible. They are innocent victims who, along with their families, have suffered unjustly for far too long. But make no mistake: Biden’s payment will only supercharge Iran’s hostage-taking industry.

After Obama paid Iran $1.7 billion for four Americans back in 2016 (including $400 million in literal pallets of cash), Iranian clerics and generals bragged about it for years—and some suggested that taking hostages could henceforth serve as a sound method for balancing Iran’s budget. Sadly, if Biden goes through with this deal, that could well be the case again. Seven billion dollars would amount to around one-third of Iran’s annual terror and security budget, fueling even more violence around the world and against Iranians. At prices like these, more Americans are sure to land in Evin Prison.

Each day, I learn more about the terrible deal coming out of Vienna. The degree of capitulation happening there is staggering, especially for those of us who worked in the technical trenches to impose these sanctions and monitor Iran’s nuclear program for years. That’s why nonpartisan career staffers are desperately asking for more oversight from Congress, even though Malley and the administration designed the negotiation process to take place without any congressional (and thus democratic representative) input. Administration officials have tried to make the case to lawyers internally that they are merely going back to the original JCPOA, and therefore do not need to submit the deal to Congress under the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) signed into law by the president.

That is not true. The Biden administration is not going back to the JCPOA. It has negotiated an entirely different agreement. And I can assure you it is much, much worse than the original.

Why is no one talking about Iran digging a new unbombable nuke facility? – analysis

February 28, 2022

The facility in Natanz is built deep under a massive mountain, making it extremely difficult for the IDF to ever bomb it.

Iran is developing a new nuclear threat that could be a game-changer – and which will continue to proceed regardless of whether there is a nuclear deal or not.

It is a problem that almost no one is talking about, in an area called Natanz where the Mossad allegedly blew up two different nuclear facilities in July 2020 and April 2021 respectively.

The new enormous nuclear threat is a new underground facility Iran is digging and building in the Natanz area which goes so deep under a mountain so large that it will leave the Fordow facility in the dust in terms of how difficult it would be for the IDF to strike it.

In a report, Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright wrote, “Fordow is already viewed as so deeply buried that it would be difficult to destroy via aerial attack. The new Natanz site may be even harder to destroy.”

Why no one is talking about it – other than Albright – is probably a mix of it being an issue that may not fully mature until 2023 and that there are few good options for addressing it.

The main mountain harboring the new Natanz tunnel complex is called Kuh-e Kolang Gaz La and has a height of 1608 meters above sea level, he said.

In comparison, the mountain harboring the Fordow centrifuge enrichment plant, called Kūh-e Dāgh Ghū’ī, is about 960 meters tall.

The report said that this makes the Natanz mountain about 650 meters or well over 50% taller, potentially providing even greater protection to any facility built underneath it.

For around 13 years, military strategists have debated and pulled their hair out over whether Israel’s vaunted air force has weaponry that could go deep enough underground to destroy Fordow.

If Israel cannot destroy Fordow, then it substantially reduces the potential for success by any Israeli use of force against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Albright is saying in no uncertain terms that the new facility being built in the Natanz area will be 50% harder to destroy than Fordow, which Jerusalem might be unable to destroy.

According to the report, the underground facility is also huge.

This means that the largest segments of Tehran’s nuclear programs may eventually move to this site.

“A Western intelligence official recently stated that there is strong reason to believe that an enrichment plant is being built at the Natanz underground site, and reiterated the claim in a follow-up conversation,” wrote Albright.

Continuing, he said, “The Institute was not able to independently confirm this, but a small, advanced centrifuge enrichment plant is certainly the most worrisome possibility.”

Albright wrote that “a relatively small number of advanced IR-6 centrifuges, say 1,000, would be enough to create a more powerful enrichment plant, providing a doubling of the enrichment output compared to Fordow and requiring about one-third of the floor area of Fordow’s main hall.”

In turn, this could mean that the vast majority of Iran’s nuclear program could become untouchable by any airstrike.

The construction of the new underground complex has been an Iranian priority, following the two previous sabotage operations.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the then-head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) stated in April 2021, “We are working 24/7 to move all our sensitive halls into the heart of the mountain near Natanz.”

However, more than a year and a half after the July 2020 sabotage, the replacement facility remains undone. Salehi had also said they hoped the halls “will be ready by next year so we can move these facilities to them.”

However, even now it is unknown if the new site will be ready for operation before 2023.

Once the Islamic Republic does have it up and running though, the report suggested that Iran could jump back up from assembling hundreds of new advanced centrifuges per year to thousands.

Until the new facility is built, Albright said that Tehran is “depending on ad hoc above ground centrifuge capabilities limited to the assembly of hundreds of advanced centrifuges per year,” with the sabotage operations setting back “Iran’s centrifuge program significantly.”

ll of this is true despite Iran’s success at operating enough advanced centrifuges to enrich enough uranium for multiple potential nuclear weapons – if it decides to enrich up further to weaponized levels.

In terms of the status of the construction, satellite images throughout 2021 show extensive excavation activities, with spoil piles growing steadily, said the report.

As of November 2021, the report said that “the area remains a major construction zone, excavation appears ongoing, and the overall tunnel facility does not appear finished. Construction materials visibly stored along the graded roads may indicate ongoing tunnel lining efforts or that Iran has begun to outfit the interior in parts of the tunnel complex.”

“Two tunnel entrance areas, one west and one east of a large mountain, with three likely tunnel portals, have been identified in commercial satellite imagery, as well as a construction staging area and probable future above-ground support site,” said the report.

Albright wrote that, “near the Western tunnel portal, there is road grading, perhaps for a second Western portal, or the genesis of an access route to the top of the mountain to allow the construction of a ventilation shaft/system on the top of the mountain.”

He recommended that “efforts should be made to dissuade Iran from finishing this facility, or… to at least disrupt its procurements of needed equipment and raw materials,” since otherwise, the facility could “reconstitute Iran’s ability to deploy thousands of advanced centrifuges each year, once again complicating any effort to lengthen its breakout or sneak-out timelines in a nuclear agreement.”

Jewish Pulitzer Prize winning authors

February 4, 2022

Click through the short Instagram slide show to see a familiar face and a familiar name (slide 5 of 6).

Yes, Israel can attack Iran

January 8, 2022

I haven’t copied across all the info to be found at the link below – the site owner deserves to get the traffic so hit the link for an interesting piece of analysis!

Yes, Israel can attack Iran 1 December 2021

But I will highlight these 2 paragraphs:

It seems to me that despite what Melman and others have said, Israel does have options to attack Iran. One approach is to paralyze the regime as a whole: cut off the head by killing the leadership, and cut the spinal cord by wrecking her communications and power infrastructure (perhaps with EMP weapons). Not everything must be done by manned aircraft: drones, submarine-launched missiles, Jericho ICBMs, and even special forces on the ground could take part. In this way, Iran can be taken out of the game without the need to destroy all her nuclear facilities at once. This also entails neutralizing Hezbollah at the same time, which might be the most difficult part.

There are other approaches, but rather than the surgical removal of the nuclear program, I prefer an attack targeting the regime because it will also lead to solutions to other problems, like Hezbollah. Possibly if the regime is hurt badly enough, the domestic Iranian opposition will be free to act, which could bring about the best outcome of all.

This is something that I have always thought – Israel, in attacking Iran, doesn’t need to destroy all the nuke sites straight away. They aren’t going anywhere so can be dealt with accordingly. Best to disable the Iranian threat first (ie leadership). An EMP weapon (delivered by Jericho missile) would be an awesome option were Israel to decide to use one (and if they have such a weapon). Although it would need to be a non-nuclear EMP weapon – setting off an atomic bomb 30km above Iran would cause immense blowback from around the world. A non-nuclear EMP weapon (of equivalent power to a nuclear one) is the holy grail of weapons for Israel to use. I hope they have some smart jews working on this…

Truth behind killing of Iran scientist

January 7, 2022

Article is almost a year old, but contains a lot of interesting details.

Top nuclear expert was killed by the Mossad, who used a one-ton remote-controlled gun smuggled into Iran piece by piece over eight months, the JC can disclose

The Iranian nuclear scientist who was shot dead near Tehran in November was killed by a one-ton automated gun that was smuggled into the country piece-by-piece by the Mossad, the JC can reveal.

The 20-plus spy team, which comprised both Israeli and Iranian nationals, carried out the high-tech hit after eight months of painstaking surveillance, intelligence sources disclosed.

The Tehran regime has secretly assessed that it will take six years before a replacement for top scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is fully operational.

Meanwhile, Israeli analysts have concluded that his death has extended the period of time it would take Iran to achieve a bomb from about three-and-a-half months to two years — with senior intelligence figures privately putting it as high as five years.

The disclosures come as the JC gives the fullest account yet of the assassination that made headlines around the world and significantly degraded Tehran’s nuclear capabilities.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 59, known as the “father of the bomb”, lost his life in a burst of 13 bullets as he travelled with his wife and 12 bodyguards in Absard, near Tehran, on 27 November last year.

Neither his wife nor any of his security team were harmed in the attack, which was carried out using a hyper-accurate automated weapon in order to protect civilians from collateral damage.

Since Fakhrizadeh’s death, speculation has been rife about his killers, with no intelligence agency claiming responsibility for the murder. The circumstances of the killing have also been shrouded in mystery, with wild reports wrongly blaming a team of 62 gunmen.

Now the JC can confirm that Israel’s feared spy agency was behind the hit, which was carried out by mounting the killing device in a Nissan pickup.

The bespoke weapon, operated remotely by agents on the ground as they observed the target, was so heavy because it included a bomb that destroyed the evidence after the killing.

It was carried out by Israel alone, without American involvement, the JC has learnt. US officials were only given a “little clue, like checking the water temperature” prior to the attack, according to top international intelligence sources.

The audacious operation, which humiliated the Tehran leadership, succeeded partly because Iranian security services were too busy watching suspected political dissenters, sources said.

Jacob Nagel, one of Israel’s most senior defence officials who acted as Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, said: “The Mossad had documents proving that Fakhrizadeh had worked on several nuclear warheads, each one able to cause five Hiroshimas.

“He was serious. He still meant to do what he planned. So someone decided that he had had enough time on earth.”

LONG READ: Death from Mossad’s hyper-accurate gun

By Jake Wallis Simons, Deputy Editor

When Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s “father of the bomb”, perished in a hail of bullets on the outskirts of Tehran in November, the assassination stunned the Iranian regime and made headlines around the world. But three months on, key questions remain unanswered.

Nobody even knows how the 59-year-old nuclear scientist was killed. Initial reports suggested he was gunned down by armed men; later, a Revolutionary Guards official blamed a “satellite-operated” gun using artificial intelligence.

Quite where such a device had come from, and how it had been set up, remained unexplained. To this day, nobody knows whether the operation was a snap move or had been planned for months. And despite many theories, no one knows exactly why he was killed.

Uncertainty also hangs over President Trump’s role in the hit. Some analysts argued that he was making his mark before leaving office, while others denied American involvement.

Most importantly of all — despite widespread speculation that Israel was responsible — nobody has pinned down the identity of those behind the killing.

Until now. Today, the JC can confirm that the hit was carried out by Mossad, Israel’s feared intelligence service. And in the most complete account of the operation yet published, we can reveal for the first time the answers to the questions that have eluded the world.

To understand the need for such a high-profile and high-risk operation, the plot must be traced back to the night of 31 January 2018, to a bleak commercial district on the outskirts of the Iranian capital, and a blinding flash of light inside a darkened warehouse.

That was the start of one of the most significant intelligence coups carried out by Mossad in recent times. After a year of surveillance, spies stole a vast archive of Iran’s nuclear secrets, using torches that burned bright at 2,000C to free the documents from 32 giant safes.

Starting with the black ringbinders containing the most vital information, the agents spirited away 50,000 pages of documents and 163 CDs containing the full details of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

Today, the nuclear archive — which Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled in a famous address at the Israeli Defence Ministry in 2018 — is housed in a forensically-secure unit at a secret location in Israel. Sources confirmed that the Jewish state is now using the intelligence it contained to persuade the Biden administration, via the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Tehran cannot be trusted to abide by the terms of any nuclear deal.

“We will base our arguments this time on pure intelligence, not politics,” an Israeli source said. “It will be cleaner to do that.” The secrets would not be new to the Americans, the source clarified, but Israeli officials would be offering their own interpretation and emphasis.

Earlier this month, the Mossad convened a meeting of its Brigadier-Generals to decide how to stop the US from entering another flawed nuclear deal that would only empower Iran. Israel believes that the 2015 Obama agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), disastrously allowed Tehran to keep its nuclear programme intact, pausing it but not dismantling it. And it allowed the regime to siphon money to its numerous proxy militias as soon as sanctions were lifted, subjecting the region to years of havoc.

The archive suggested that Iran had failed to respect the terms of Obama’s bargain. Fast forward to 2021, and Israel hopes that it will convince Joe Biden not to repeat the errors made by his old friend, and maintain some semblance of Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on the theocracy.

Operationally, however, the archive meant something else. As soon as Israeli analysts opened those black ringbinders back in 2018, they knew that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was destined — to use Mossad slang — to “depart”.

“It contained original documents ordering the concealment of the nuclear programme, many of them in Fakhrizadeh’s handwriting,” a source said.

“Analysts realised they were looking at his ink, his fingerprints, his pressure on the paper as he wrote. He was the one who was behind the deception.

“Fakhrizadeh was the father of everything we found in the archive. All was under his command, from the science and the secret sites to the personnel and know-how. He had led an operation to hide it from the world. From that point, it was just a matter of time.”

The assassination plot went live in March 2020, as the world was preoccupied with the Coronavirus threat. A team of Israeli spies was dispatched to Iran, where it liaised with local agents.

The group was comprised of more than 20 operatives, a large number for such a complex and risky mission. A meticulous surveillance operation was launched. “The team built up an extremely detailed, minute-by-minute plan,” said a source. “For eight months, they breathed with the guy, woke up with him, slept with him, travelled with him. They would have smelled his aftershave every morning, if he had used aftershave.”

The decision was made to kill the scientist on the road leading east out of Tehran to the exclusive country retreat of Absard, where he owned a villa.

The team knew that Fakhrizadeh travelled there from Tehran on Fridays. “They knew his daily route, speed and timing, and they knew exactly which doors they would use to get out,” a source said.

The JC has confirmed that the assassins did indeed use a sophisticated remote-controlled gun, with a small bomb built in to allow it to self-destruct (though contrary to Iranian claims, it was not “satellite operated”).

Including the explosives, the bespoke device weighed one ton, and was smuggled into Iran in small pieces over several months. Then it was assembled and installed inside a Nissan pick-up truck, which was parked by the side of the road.

On 27 November, Fakhrizadeh was travelling with his wife in a black Opel saloon, in the midst of a convoy carrying 12 bodyguards. Unbeknownst to them, a team of Israeli spies was on the ground, watching their every move and waiting to operate the gun from a distance.

When the car passed the designated spot, they pressed the button and the hyper-accurate weapon opened fire. Thirteen bullets hit Fakhrizadeh head-on, while his wife, who was sitting 10 inches away, was not harmed.

Iranian authorities claimed that the scientist’s security chief was struck by four bullets as he threw himself across his boss. But sources close to the operation said this was untrue. Not a single one of Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, nor anybody aside from the scientist, was killed or injured, the JC can confirm.

“There were several ways to operate but this one was the most accurate,” a source said. “It was the most elegant way to make sure that the target will be hit, and only him. The objective was to avoid harming anyone else.” Claims that gunmen moved in to finish the scientist off were inaccurate, the source added.

As the Mossad team made its escape, the one-ton weapon blew itself up, adding to the confusion at the scene. “Thank God we got all our people out and they didn’t catch anyone. They didn’t even come close,” one of those familiar with the operation said. “Their security was not bad at all, but the Mossad was much better. It was a major thing that happened, a dramatic operation.”

The impact of the assassination was so profound that it surprised even the Mossad top brass. “Israel had a big team there, including Israelis, and it was a big embarrassment for Tehran,” a source said. “The regime was humiliated and devastated. Even the Mossad was surprised by the huge impact.

“The machine was quite an impressive thing. There was a team on the ground as well, which made it quite complicated. But it had to be done and it was worth it.”

The source disclosed: “It has hit the Iranians hard. Tehran has assessed that it will take six years to find a replacement for Fakhrizadeh. Israeli analysis has now put the breakout time (the period it would take Iran to finalise a nuclear bomb) at two years. Before Fakhrizadeh departed, it was about three months.”

And two years is a conservative estimate. Senior Mossad figures privately believe that the breakout time is closer to five years, the JC can reveal. The source added: “The Americans were not involved. It was absolutely an Israeli operation, door to door. It was not political, it was a matter of security. It had nothing to do with Trump or the US election. It happened after Biden was elected.

“But Israel did give the Americans a little clue — not to the level of asking for the green light, more like checking the water temperature. Just like they had notified us before killing (Iranian Brigadier-General Qasem) Soleimani.”

Further assassinations were planned for the future, the source said, though nothing on the same scale as Fakhrizadeh or Soleimani. “Yes, the Mossad may have plans for further departures,” the source said. “We need to keep the pressure on. Israel will keep on fighting, for sure. We have already created big holes in Al Qaeda and the (Iranian special forces) Quds force.” According to Mossad analysis, Iran is responsible for 80 per cent of the threats facing the Jewish state. And there is no doubt that whatever approach the Americans take with Iran, Israel will “defend itself by itself”.

“Our main strategy for leverage over the United States is to present our 2018 intelligence to the IAEA,” a source said. “But if it doesn’t work, we will act. The US won’t love it, but we will keep our sovereignty and fight every existential threat.Many Al Qaeda and Iranian personnel have departed, and now Fakhrizadeh has departed. That has made a big difference.

“But if the situation becomes critical, we will ask nobody for permission. We will kill the bomb.”

ANALYSIS: Tehran beware, the Mossad knows everything

By Norman T. Roule, who served in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for 34 years. From 2008 to 2017, he was National Intelligence Manager for Iran (NIM-I), responsible for US intelligence activities related to the theocracy

The Iranian nuclear archive that Mossad stole three years ago revealed extraordinary detail of Tehran’s covert nuclear weapons programme. But the reason for undertaking such a risky operaion to remove an adversary like Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is not justified by such past activities, but more likely concern of what he might do in the future.

Fakhrizadeh was known for his work on the nuclear weaponisation programme, and it is logical that he was killed to deny Iran this expertise.  We shouldn’t ignore, however, the possibility that he was working on other technologies at the same time, which might have also been perceived to be a strategic threat.

Fakhrizadeh was the sole, senior Iranian official to have managed a secret nuclear weapons programme. His work would likely have involved every aspect of project management, from overseeing the budget to looking after personnel. He reportedly enjoyed a rare level of access to Iran’s Supreme Leader and senior military officials. 

He also had a reputation of being able to fend off his bureaucratic adversaries, having the backing of the most powerful men in the country.  Iran has many nuclear scientists, but his experience made him unique. Whoever his successor turns out to be, they will be highly unlikely to enjoy his stature, bureaucratic clout, or access to such senior leaders.

Several challenges will confront Iran’s Supreme Leader, should he authorise a new weaponisation programme. First, Iran’s adversaries have demonstrated tremendous capacity and skill.

Recently, Iran has suffered heavy losses. First, it lost its most sensitive nuclear archive to Israel.  Then, the US killed Major-General Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi accomplice, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in a surgical operation in Iraq.  After that, in August, al-Qaeda leader Abu Muhammad al-Masri and his daughter were killed in another surgical attack in Tehran. Now they have suffered the death of Fakhrizadeh, their top nuclear scientist. 

In addition, Iran has claimed sabotage at its nuclear installation in Natanz, as well as at other facilities. These operations showed that Tehran’s adversaries apparently have strong intelligence and a capacity to neutralise hostile actors without risking civilian casualties. 

One can’t help thinking that such operations are meant to discourage other Iranians from similar hostile actions, or even from taking the place of the individuals killed in these attacks.

Also, the proven ability of foreign intelligence services to uncover Iran’s most sensitive secrets will likely cause Iran’s leadership to wonder whether they can keep a nuclear weaponisation programme secret long enough to reach completion.

It is hard to imagine that Iran’s leaders wouldn’t believe – with good reason – that such a programme would be discovered well before they had constructed a single weapon. At that point, Iran would risk a diplomatic disaster, and possibly a military strike by its adversaries.

Lastly, it may well be that the nuclear archive stolen by Mossad had no backup in Iran.  This information provided not only the details of how to construct a nuclear weapon, but equally importantly, which methods didn’t work. Such knowledge would have allowed Iran to save much time on any future effort. Without these insights and Fakhrizadeh’s memory of them, any future Iranian nuclear weaponisation effort will take far longer to develop.

Tehan’s response to Fakhrizadeh’s killing will require time.  They will likely need to conduct an internal security review, if only to try to ensure that any retaliation won’t be discovered. They will fear that anybody involved in planning retribution against the Israelis or Americans could meet a similar fate to Soleimani, Abu Mohammed al-Masri, and Fakhrizadeh.

Scientist was a marked man

By Jacob Nagel, Israel’s acting national security advisor under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

There are three stages to making a nuclear bomb. First, the fissile material must be produced, which in Iran’s case is uranium. Then comes weaponisation, which means shaping the material into a warhead. Finally, you need to attach it to the means of delivery, usually a missile.

From an Israeli point of view, denying Iran the bomb means dealing with all three of these stages. Some people say that the fire at the uranium enrichment site in Natanz, Iran’s largest such facility, in August, was caused by the Mossad. That would be disrupting the fissile material stage.

In terms of the third stage, Major-General Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian military chief who was killed by an American missile, was involved with funding the nuclear programme and the means of delivery. His departure was a big hole in organising the means of delivery of the bomb.

Fakhrizadeh’s specialism was in stage two, weaponisation. There is only a small number of experts in Iran who understand the weaponisation process — we’re talking double digits. He was the foremost of them. His departure has created a vital break in the chain towards a viable nuclear weapon.

But Fakhrizadeh was even more important than this. He was the head of the Iranian nuclear programme overall. As we learned from the archive stolen by Mossad in 2018, he was responsible for building a cover story, with dual-purpose projects in academia, industry and the civilian world, allowing Iran to cultivate the manpower and know-how necessary to build a bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is about to submit a report detailing the residuals it recently found in four different sites in Iran, which is evidence of nuclear tests and experiments. All of this was Fakhrizadeh. That is the reason why he was ready to depart.

His death was a big blow to Tehran, especially following the blow of the death of Soleimani. Maybe more blows will be necessary.

It is certain that if Iran developed the bomb, it would be a problem for the whole world, including the UK. Israel especially cannot live with a nuclear Iran. So we will defend ourselves by ourselves, and in the process we are defending you, too.

Drones, bombs, spies — inside Israel’s cunning plan to stop Iran’s nukes

January 6, 2022

Article is from 6 December, and the events it describes are even older, but an interesting summary nonetheless.

The Iran Center for Advanced Centrifuges facility at Natanz after it was damaged by an explosion on July 2, 2020.

Israel has carried out three major operations over the last 18 months against Iran’s nuclear sites. These attacks involved as many as a thousand Mossad personnel and were executed with ruthless precision using high-tech weaponry, including drones and a quadcopter — and spies within Tehran’s holy of holies, its nuclear program.

While President Biden’s nuclear negotiators try to snatch catastrophe from the jaws of defeat in Vienna, Israel is taking things more seriously.

Last week, Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, pivoted to a new policy on Tehran: retaliating against aggression from militias backed by Tehran with covert strikes on Iranian soil.

This builds on the extensive capabilities that the Mossad has built up in the Islamic Republic in recent years. In February — seven months before the New York Times “broke” the same story — I exposed in the Jewish Chronicle of London how Israeli spies killed nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh using a remote-controlled machine gun. I can now reveal the secrets behind Israel’s latest triple attack on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The tripartite sabotage effort began on July 2, 2020, with a mysterious explosion in the Iran Center for Advanced Centrifuges facility at Natanz, one of the ultra-secure nuclear sites that are dotted around Iran.

At first, the Iranians were mystified. The building had apparently blown itself up. But how? The answer, as they say, shocked them. When the ayatollah’s apparatchiks were renovating the facility in 2019, Israeli agents had posed as construction merchants and sold them building supplies. Those building supplies were packed with explosives. A year later, they were detonated by Tel Aviv.

Although this created substantial damage, the Natanz plant was far from out of the game. Beneath a protective layer of 40 feet of concrete and iron lay the inner sanctum of the A1000 subterranean hall. Inside were up to 5,000 centrifuges that whirred away day and night, minute by minute taking the Iranian regime closer toward a nuclear weapon.

The second phase of the plan swung into action. Mossad spies approached up to 10 Iranian scientists who had access to this hall and managed to persuade them to switch sides — although they led the scientists to believe that they were working for international dissidents, not Israel.

Incredibly, the scientists agreed to blow up the high-security facility.

“Their motivations were all different,” a well-placed Israeli source tells me. “Mossad found out what they deeply wanted in their lives and offered it to them. There was an inner circle of scientists who knew more about the operation, and an outer circle who helped out but had less ­information.”

There remained the puzzle of ­getting the explosives into the ­fortified complex.

This was achieved in two ways. First, a drone flew into its airspace and delivered the bombs to an agreed-upon location to be collected by the scientists. Then came the smuggling.

“Let’s say you wanted to get explosives into Natanz,” a source told me coyly. “How could you do it? You could, for example, think about how people working there need to eat. They need food.

“So you could put the explosives in the lorry that delivers the food to the canteen, and the scientists could pick it up once it’s inside. Yes, you could do that.”

The plan worked. The scientists collected the bombs and installed them. In April, after Iran announced that it had started to use advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges in the underground hall — in brazen defiance of its nuclear commitments — the explosives were triggered.

The blast destroyed the secure power system, causing a blackout. Ninety percent of the centrifuges were destroyed, putting the facility out of action for up to nine months. The scientists instantly vanished. All are alive and well ­today.

Mossad’s attention then turned to the production of the centrifuges themselves, to disrupt the regime’s attempt to restore the Natanz facility. The crosshairs moved to Karaj, 30 miles northwest of Tehran, where the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) is located.

Over the preceding months, a team of Israeli spies and their Iranian agents had jointly smuggled an armed quadcopter — weighing the same as a motorcycle, a source confirmed — into the country, piece by piece. Now it was time to deploy it.

On June 23, the team assembled the kit and took it to a location 10 miles from the TESA factory. The operatives launched it, piloted it to the factory and released the payload, causing a large explosion. Then the drone returned to the launch site, where it was spirited away to be used again.

It is significant that these operations took place while the negotiations were continuing in Vienna. The Mossad operations were carried out without international collaboration. To use Israeli intelligence slang, the attacks were “blue-and-white” rather than “blue-white-and-red,” which refers to American involvement. This is significant, too.

In recent weeks, Axios reported, Israel has shared intelligence proving that Iran has been laying the technical groundwork for enriching uranium to 90 percent purity, the level required for a bomb.

While Biden’s team, saturated with naivete and a “Back to the Future” focus on the Obama years, fruitlessly pursues jaw-jaw in Vienna, the cynical Iranians are preparing for war — and the Mossad, whose instincts are sharpened by the desire to protect their families from annihilation, is trying to stop them.

The contrast between cloud-cuckoo Washington and post-Holocaust Jerusalem is stark. And in seven months’ time, you might read even this in the New York Times.

The miracle of 48

December 18, 2021

And you could add: “Because Arabs can’t fight their way out of a paper bag”.