DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 29, 2012,
The sabotage of the Fordo uranium enrichment facility’s power lines on Aug. 17 gave Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu extra leeway to move his original red line for Iran from late September 2012 – now – to the spring or early summer of 2013. The disruption of the underground enrichment plant’s power supply caused several of the advanced IR-1 and IR-4 centrifuges producing the 20-percent grade uranium to burst into flames. Work was temporarily halted and the accumulation of 240 kilos for Iran’s first nuclear bomb slowed down by at least six months, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report.
Hence Netanyahu’s new red line timeline of “late spring, early summer” – before which preventive action is imperative – in his speech to the UN General Assembly Thursday, Sept. 27.
Our military sources report that the advantage gained is already proving short-lived. Iran has pounced back fast with two aggressive counter-moves on Israel’s doorstep:
1. Thousands of elite Al Qods Brigades officers and men are being airlifted into Lebanon and Syria and deployed opposite Israeli borders (as DEBKAfile has reported);
2. Shortly before the Israeli Prime Minister rose to speak in New York, Syrian President Bashar Assad again removed chemical weapons out of storage. Some were almost certainly passed to the incoming Iranian units. The weapons’ movements were accounted for as a precaution for “greater security,” but in practice they will be ready for use against Israel when the order is handed down from Tehran.
Friday, Sept. 28, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was specifically asked by a reporter if it was believed that “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Syrian rebels had been able to get possession of any of the chemical weapons” which the secretary had just disclosed were on the move. He left the door open, saying only that he had “no firm information to confirm this.” That sort of question never comes out of thin air.
It was also the second time in three weeks that the defense secretary mentioned the movements of Syrian chemical weapons out of storage. This time, he said, ‘‘There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that’s taken place, we don’t know.” But he did not rule out the possibility that they were being made ready for use.
This non-denial tied in closely with the words heard that day from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “Iran has left no doubt that it will do whatever it takes to protect the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Tehran’s staunch ally,” she said.
Syrian chemical weapons movements out of storage, the presence of crack Iranian fighting units on Israel’s borders and Tehran’s determination to keep Assad in power “whatever it takes” hung in menacing silence over Netanyahu’s powerful cartoon presentation of the Iranian nuclear peril.
Already on Sept. 16, the Revolutionary Guards chief Gen. Ali Jafary announced publicly that al Qods Brigades personnel had landed not only in Syria but also Lebanon. The chemical weapons may therefore have already reached Hizballah or be on their way there unbeknownst to US intelligence.
Both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have repeatedly stated that the transfer of chemical weapons to Hizballah would necessitate Israeli military action.
The IDF’s large-scale military call-up and firing exercise on the Golan of Sept. 19 failed to deter the Iranian military buildup opposite Israeli northern borders in Syria and Lebanon. The Iranian airlift continues and US intelligence has not denied that some al Qods arrivals may now be armed with chemical weapons.
The Iranian threat to Israel is therefore far from static; it is gaining substance and menace, keeping two IDF divisions on call in northern Israel after the exercise was over.
Netanyahu’s red line for preventing Iran achieving a 240-kilo enriched uranium stockpile does not cover an Iranian preemptive attack on the Jewish state before then – as threatened explicitly by the Iranian missiles Corps chief Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizade on Sept. 24.
Neither had Israeli officials anything to say about the Hamas leaders’ trips to Beirut and Tehran this month to sign military accords with the Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah pledging the Palestinian extremists’ participation in an attack on Israel.
The red line on the cartoon bomb which Netanyahu held up so effectively at the UN Thursday covered only one segment of the peril Tehran poses for the Jewish state. A more immediate danger lurks in the north.