- - Friday, October 5, 2012

Despite the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s red line on Iran’s illicit nuclear program could be reached by next spring, Iranian officials are adamant that war is close.

In analyzing Mr. Netanyahu’s recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, an Iranian nuclear policy strategist boasted to state media outlet irannuc.ir that Mr. Netanyahu’s red line is based on the current enrichment process to the 20 percent level at the Fordow nuclear facility. A recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report shows Iran has 90 kilograms of 20 percent enrichment, needing just 130 kilograms of such material for a nuclear bomb, which the Israelis conclude will happen by next spring.

“The first important fact is that Netanyahu has assumed that the speed of 20 percent enrichment by Iran remains the same till next year, but if the speed of such conversion then is changed, the timeline for such capacity will change, too,” said the unnamed strategist, hinting that Iran could obtain the needed material for the bomb sooner than Israel expects.

The Aug. 30 IAEA report showed Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges at its Fordow facility deep within a mountain to more than 2,000, and work continues unabated at the 20 percent enrichment level. Meanwhile, over 10,000 centrifuges at the Natanz facility are enriching to the 3.5 percent level with enough low-enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs, should Iran decide to enrich further. According to a source within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Iran has already armed some of its ballistic missiles with chemical and biological warheads, to use against Israel should Israel attack.

Revolutionary Guard commanders in recent weeks have warned Iranians that the possibility of war is real. The guards’ chief commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said war will break out, and should Israel attack Iran, it will be destroyed. Javad Estaki, another guard commander, recently stated, “The enemy has always threatened us and we consider [the probability of] military confrontation at 100 percent . There are signs that the threat is real, we are ready and the people should be ready, too.”

The radical leaders of the Islamic regime are worried on two fronts as they speed up their nuclear bomb program: They fear an attack on their nuclear facilities before they complete their nuclear bomb goals and internal uprisings due to deteriorating economic conditions.

As the regime prepares for both scenarios, the West must tighten the screws on Iran’s economy with even harsher sanctions, thereby bringing about critical mass for a new Iranian revolution before the regime becomes nuclear-armed.

The Revolutionary Guard, in fear of a break in communications in case of war and internal chaos, has set up command-and-control centers in 31 provinces, acting under the orders of 10 operational bases, with orders to confront any enemy aggression (foot soldiers) and suppress civilian riots.

Thousands of units have been formed within the Revolutionary Guards and Basij paramilitary forces to maintain order and attack protesting civilians.

A recent Intelligence Ministry memo warned Iranian officials that deteriorating economic conditions from international sanctions greatly increase the possibility of an uprising and urged them to take appropriate action.

The once-secret report, according to the Iranian Internet site Kaleme, the official site of the Green movement, specifically warned of riots by hungry masses on the outskirts of major cities across Iran.

The government’s economic commission has concluded that the country will run out of foreign currency reserves in the next six months and that inflation plaguing the Iranian currency will see another steep rise, reports showed.

Last week, the Iranian currency reached a historic low in which one U.S. dollar was equivalent to 39,000 Iranian rials. The commission expects the exchange rate on the open market to increase to more than 67,000 rials. The exchange rate before sanctions on Iranian oil and banks took effect July 1 was about 12,000 rials.

The devaluation in Iranian currency caused riots in downtown Tehran, as hundreds of merchants marched on Parliament in protest of the collapsing currency and the Islamic regime’s financial support of Syria’s government under Bashar Assad. Riot police violently clamped down on protesters. The government will also have problems in making payrolls for its employees and related institutions. Employees could lose 50 percent of their pay.

Western leaders believe that by early next year, economic conditions will force regime leaders, fearing a revolt from within, to change course and negotiate. The Islamic regime is preparing for the worst and racing to the finish line to acquire the bomb, believing that it will become invincible once it does so.

The best course of action for the United States is to support the Iranian people who aspire to freedom and democracy, and help them bring change from within. The country is ripe for revolt, and Western support is critical as the regime prepares to confront its own people over policies the majority of Iranians have long resented.

Reza Khalili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

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