Iran to expand 20-pc uranium enrichment at Fordo with new centrifuges
May 17, 2012, 5:19 PM (GMT+02:00)
New cascades of centrifuges are being installed at Iran’s Fordo nuclear
underground facility raising the total to 3,000 machines. All the 800
machines operating at present are devoted to the 20-percent refinement
of uranium, a grade just short of bomb material. This was disclosed by
Western diplomatic sources Thursday, May 17, at the same time as
Washington sources reported that the Obama administration had consented
to Iran producing low-grade 5-percent enriched uranium in their secret
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced earlier this year that
Iran would soon have 3,000 centrifuges spinning at Fordo, one-third of
its ultimate goal of 9,000. Already, Tehran has accumulated a stock of
more than 110 kilograms of 20-percent uranium, enough to fuel several
nuclear bombs. That stock will soon be doubled or tripled by expanded
military and intelligence sources report that by installing new
centrifuges in Fordo, Tehran is cynically mocking President Barack Obama
who defined the main objectives of their back-channel dialogue as being
to halt Iranian production of 20-percent enriched uranium and shut down
nuclear activity at Fordo. Our Iranian sources claim Tehran never
signed on to those goals. It was only tacitly understood between them
that the status quo at Fordo would be maintained for the duration of
In other words, Iran was permitted to continue enriching uranium not
just to the 5-percent level but to 20-percent military grade in order to
keep the dialogue afloat.
But now, by installing the new centrifuges in Fordo, Iran is trying to
use that dialogue as a foot through the door for turning tacit,
provisional American tolerance of highly-enriched uranium
production taking place during negotiations into absolute US acceptance
of Iran’s right to keep going unhindered and so attain the status of a
An eagle eye is therefore needed to stay on top of Iran’s negotiating tactics, say debkafile’s military sources.
Only this week, Iranian officials admitted they were engaged in moving
“step after step until the objective is achieved.” Media and other
figures in Iran have hailed the US and other world powers’ consent to
Iran producing low level (5 percent) enriched uranium in unlimited
quantities as a huge feat gained by years of tremendous effort and the
prelude to their step-by-step tactic eventually yielding more
Those comments clearly indicate that Tehran was not satisfied with what it had achieved so far and wanted a lot more.
In the last DEBKA-Net-Weekly issue
of May 11, our sources reported that Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei had earlier this month posted an unequivocal message to
President Obama saying that, no matter what, Iran would not shut the
Fordo underground nuclear plant.
The Iranian leader offered to sign and uphold the Non-Proliferation
Treaty’s additional protocol for on-site spot searches, substantially
increase visits by the nuclear watchdog and permit the installation of
cameras and other monitoring devices in various sections of the Fordo
facility – provided that economic sanctions were lifted.
The White House has not yet answered Khamenei’s note, say our Washington sources.
In view of all these developments, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak
spoke Thursday, May 17, in a CNN interview in Washington, of his
apprehension that the negotiations between Iran and the major powers
would soon lead to an agreement with Iran that will enable Tehran "to
deceive the whole world" and continue building a nuclear weapon.
Diplomacy, he said, would not contain Iran. “We are now facing - I
don't like the use of words like catastrophe that you have mentioned.
It's not about catastrophe. It's about a real challenge to the whole
world, not just to Israel. I think that a nuclear Iran will change the
whole landscape of the Middle East. We have to do something to block it
from happening, be it these sanctions or the negotiations or something
Barak gave no indication of how Israel would respond to these developments, even though they are already in train.
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