Barack Obama has been in the White House for nine months and Binyamin Netanyahu in the Israeli prime minister's office six months. Both have spent precious time batting the numbers of settlement apartments to and fro instead of taking resolute steps to thwart Iran's spectacular advances on the road to a nuclear weapon. Military and intelligence sources note that Tehran has made good use of this time for the longest strides towards its objective than at any time since its program was surreptitiously launched.
The progress confirmed by our sources consists of four major steps:
1. Iran has succeeded in secretly combining uranium processing, airborne high-explosive tests and work on designing a missile cone to fit a nuclear warhead, according to Western intelligence updates.
2. The conflicting reports on the amount of uranium enriched and number of fast centrifuge machines in operation obscure the following hard facts: The Iranians have doubled the number of ever faster centrifuges that are working at their enrichment plants.
They are moreover completing tests on a more advanced homemade centrifuge, the IR4, which will halve the time taken for converting low-grade enrichment uranium into weapons-grade material.
3. By February 2010 - and some say sooner - Tehran will have stocked enough high-grade enriched uranium for two nuclear bombs.
4. Iran has also gone into home production of nuclear fuel rods for plutonium.
Barack Obama' repeatedly held up his plan to engage Tehran in dialogue - first until the June 12 presidential election (hoping a more rational president would replace Mahmoud Ahmedinejad); then, until the popular unrest following the disputed poll died down (for fear of being accused of interfering); and finally on the assumption that the turmoil would divide and weaken the Islamic regime and make it easier to engage constructively.
The six world powers, US, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany accordingly gave Iran until Sept. 15 to start talks.
It turned out that these delays, instead of weakening Iran's rulers, hardened their position.
Reacting to the new intelligence presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran's delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Friday, Sept. 4: "The government of the United States has not handed over the original documents to the agency since it does not in fact have any authenticated documents and all it has are forged document"
An anonymous US official in Vienna said Soltanieh's accusations were baseless and the IAEA itself "had accepted the material as credible."
But by then, the Iranian delegate had come up with a new self-serving initiative: a proposal for the agency's board of governors to ban member states from attacking the nuclear facilities of other nations.
Then on Saturday, Sept 5, Soltanieh, made it clear that Tehran was virtually scrapping the Western powers incentives offer which has been gathering dust since last year as the basis for talks and was about to put forward its own "comprehensive package on issues, including nuclear and economic cooperation as well as concerns about the proliferation of atomic weapons."
The Iranian package will be handed in this week.
What do Washington and Jerusalem propose to do now in the face of Iran's aggressive nuclear and diplomatic offensives? Will the foot-dragging continue until Iran conducts its first nuclear test?
Four years ago, prime minister Ariel Sharon said Israel must meet US demands on containing West Bank settlement "because we would need the Americans on the Iran issue."
His successor, Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni held off Israeli action by reiterating it was up to the "international community" to stop Iran's advance toward a nuclear bomb.
Has anything changed in Washington and Jerusalem?
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