For Iran, it’s nuclear program is a sacred cow. And President Trump might be preparing to slaughter it.
On Wednesday, tensions between Iran and the United States spiked even further after the Iranian security forces launched 22 ballistic missiles that hit two American bases in Iraq.
The attacks were directly ordered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who did something highly unusual when he reportedly attended a meeting of the Iranian Security Council and demanded that the Iranian military, not Iran’s proxies in Iraq would directly carry out “any retaliatory action against the US.”
The attacks on the Ain al-Assad base and an air force base near the Kurdish capital Irbil in northern Iraq marked the first time the Islamic Republic staged a direct attack against Americans in the Middle East since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iranian state-controlled media spread fake news when they reported that 80 US soldiers had died in the missile attacks. In reality, however, there was only damage and no casualties were reported.
In an apparent attempt to deter the US from taking retaliatory measures Iran threatened to attack Israel and Dubai whenever Trump should decide to launch a counter-attack on Iranian targets.
The President earlier announced that his Administration had selected 52 targets in Iran which would be attacked if Iran would retaliate for the assassination last Friday of Qassem Soleimani the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps near Baghdad.
“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” Trump wrote on his Twitter account.
Red alert in Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu immediately reacted to the new Iranian threat against Israel – Iran threatened to level the port-city of Haifa – by saying that Iran would receive a “crushing blow” if it dared to attack Israel.
At the same time, Lebanese media reported that Hezbollah was staging a new military build-up along the Israeli border after its leader Hassan Nasrallah had called upon fellow terror groups to begin attacking The US.
Trump now had a dilemma, if he ordered retaliatory attacks on several of the 52 targets in Iran he could trigger a major regional war but if he would remain passive the effect of Soleimani’s assassination – restoring deterrence vis a vis Iran – would be undone.
At the end of the day the President apparently decided to wait with a response and instead imposed new economic sanctions on Iran while he claimed that by launching a harmless attack on US forces in Iraq Iran appeared to stand down.
Much will now depend on further Iranian steps.
If the Islamic Republic again attacks US-related targets in the Middle East and beyond, Trump will have to carry out his threat and order attacks on sites in Iran.
In this respect, it was interesting that at the start of his televised speech to the American nation Trump made a statement on Iran’s nuclear program.
“As long as I am President Iran will not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Trump said before the actual speech began.
This was no doubt a reaction to the latest Iranian announcement on uranium enrichment and it was the second time in three days that Trump addressed the issue in such a manner.
“IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!” wrote Trump on his Twitter account last Monday.
Media ignores Iranian violations
Grossly underreported by the international media was the fact that Iran after the assassination of the Quds Force commander announced it would abandon any further limits on its uranium enrichment program.
This means Iran will very soon reach a point when it obtains the ability to break out to a bomb says Olli Heinonen the former deputy director-general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran started to use its new IR-4 and IR-2 centrifuges at the end of 2019 and it is now rapidly approaching the amount of 1000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium it needs to convert it into 25 kg weapon-grade uranium it needs for building the bomb.
Heinonen now estimates that at the end of January Iran’s break-out time to a nuclear weapon will only be two months.
Trump prepares for war
We now understand the relation between Trump’s remarks on Iran’s nuclear program and his decision to send additional B-52 bombers to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean where they can easily reach Iran but stay out of reach for Iran’s long-range missiles.
If Trump orders attacks on Iranian sites he will no doubt first, select the Iranian nuclear facilities.
Some of these facilities are built underground, however, like Fordow.
To neutralize Fordow the US army will need so-called bunker busters like the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP) or the ‘Mother of all Bombs’ (MOAB) which have the capability to destroy the whole underground nuclear complex at Fordow.
To bomb the Fordow nuclear facility the US will need the B-52 because the MOP and MOAB have a weight varying from 21,000 to 30,000 pounds.
This is probably also the reason Israel has not asked the US for delivery of these two bunker busters. The F-35 Adir the Israeli version of the Lockheed stealth fighter has a load capacity of only 18,000 pounds.
Israel does have the Rafael produced Rampage missile that can penetrate underground facilities but the missile cannot destroy Fordow completely.
The decision by the Iranian regime to avoid casualties in the strikes on the US military in Iraq could be related to the American threat to attack 52 sites in Iran if US persons or assets would be targeted.
Iran’s nuclear program is the regime’s sacred cow and the destruction of it would be a fatal blow to the Iranian aspiration to dominate the Middle East and to destroy Israel.