Window of Opportunity
Vol: 81 Issue: 25 Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Last week, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bragged that the West had failed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear program in a speech carried on Iran state radio.
“In the nuclear case, bullying powers applied all their power, but they could not break the will of the Iranian nation, he boasted.
At issue is Iran s nuclear enrichment program. Iran claims it is only interested in nuclear power for civilian uses, but civilian nuclear power does not require weapons-grade enriched uranium.
The Israeli Mossad estimated in 2004 that Iran was only two years from having passed the nuclear point of no return . Thanks to those few sanctions that have actually taken hold, Iran s nuclear timetable has been slowed somewhat.
Israel now estimates Iran is about six months away. And there is a growing international consensus among Western intelligence agencies that the Israeli estimate is just about right.
Iran and Syria have just taken delivery of new training simulators for the new Russian-made Pantsyr-S1E surface-to-air missile system. The Patsyr, also known as the SA-22, is one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world.
Each system contains 12 57E6 surface-to-air missiles, two 2A72 30mm cannons and 750 ready-to-use rounds of ammunition.
According to Jane s Defense Weekly, once the SA-22 systems are operational, the odds of Israel penetrating either Syrian or Iranian airspace without being shot down range from poor to non-existent.
Last September, Israel conducted an air raid on what is believed to be a North Korean-designed nuclear power plant located at al Kibar in northeastern Syria near the Turkish border.
In a June 8 interview with the Indian newspaper, Hindu, Assad acknowledged that Al Kibar would continue to serve as a military facility.
We rebuilt it,” Assad said. “We did that right away; after the attack by few days, we started rebuilding the site. So, it is something normal to remove the “debris and have another site.”
The Syrians took delivery of the their first SA-22 systems in May. Iran has several systems already in place. It will take an estimated six more months before they are fully manned and operational.
That is about how wide a window of opportunity remains to stop them.
In an interview with the London Telegraph, former US Ambassador John Bolton predicted that Israel will hold off on attacking Iran until after the US general elections but before the new president, whoever that might be, is sworn into office.
In light of the Russian-Iranian-Syrian timetable, Bolton s estimate sounds right on the money. Israel has six months to either act or face the prospect of nuclear annihilation on two separate fronts.
Six months from now would be January.
In the interview, Bolton acknowledged that the US is unlikely to take the lead on stopping Iran. The Bush presidency is in its waning months whatever Bush starts he ll leave for the next administration to finish.
“It’s clear that the administration has essentially given up that possibility,” he said. “I don’t think it’s serious any more. If you had asked me a year ago I would have said I thought it was a real possibility. I just don’t think it’s in the cards.”
Israel, however, still had a determination to prevent a nuclear Iran, he argued. The “optimal window” for strikes would be between the November 4 election and the inauguration on January 20, 2009.
“The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defenses by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations.
“They’re also obviously looking at the American election calendar. My judgment is they would not want to do anything before our election because there’s no telling what impact it could have on the election.”
What does this mean insofar as our upcoming trip to Israel? If anything, the current scenario tends to work in our favor.
If war is to break out between Israel and Iran, it will most likely occur sometime after early November but before the middle of January.
Our trip is scheduled for the end of March, 2008. Which leaves two remaining possibilities. Either it will all be over and our trip will go as scheduled or it will be canceled and our deposits will be refunded.
Of one thing I am increasingly confident. An Israeli attack on Iran is unlikely to spark a wider regional war.
The Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians would protest, but privately, they are no more comfortable with the thought of a nuclear Iran than the Israelis are.
Forecasting events in the Middle East is a bit like forecasting the weather at best, it is an educated guess.
But this isn t shaping up as the Gog Magog Invasion, and since Iran plays a major role in that invasion, whatever exchange that takes place between Israel and Iran will likely be quick and limited.
We ll be watching the situation as it develops very closely. One thing you can be certain of.
I wouldn t take any of you on a tour I wouldn t take my wife on. So we ll be watching very closely as things develop.
Frank says the print function is operational on the new website. You will find a “print” button at the bottom of each article that will automatically format it for your printer.
Frank has also activated the PDA function so that, in addition to being able to subscribe to the OL’s RSS feeds, those of you who use PDA’s can download it directly to that medium.
Thanks for participating in the poll question regarding the new site. The results are encouraging.
Frank is working on a new contact form for the website. It should be operational within a day or so.
More to follow . . .