Sunday, September 16, 2012

We are ready for war and will punish any threat, says Iran as UK and U.S. 'plan attack over nuclear programme'

We are ready for war and will punish any threat, says Iran as UK and U.S. ‘plan attack over nuclear programme’

by Ian Drury and Rose Parker,
November 3rd 2011

Foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi spoke on visit to Libyan city of Benghazi
Warns that West should ‘think twice’ before putting itself on collision course

Iran today warned the West that it was ready for war after claims emerged that the UK and U.S. were planning an attack.

The country’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Tehran was prepared to punish ‘any threats’ as tensions escalated over its nuclear weapons programme.

‘The U.S. has unfortunately lost its wisdom and prudence in dealing with international issues. It only depends on power,’ he said on a visit to the Libyan city of Benghazi.

‘Of course we are prepared for the worst, but we hope they think twice before they put themselves on a collision course with Iran.’

On the attack: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was in the Libyan city of Benghazi today where he made the comments

In an interview published in Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Mr Salehi had said that ‘Iran was always ready for war’.

‘Iran has always been threatened by Israel. This is not new for us. We have been hearing threats from Israel for eight years,’ he continued.

‘Our nation is a united nation. Its roots are deep in history. Such threats are not new to us.

‘We are very confident of ourselves. We can defend our country.’

The UK and U.S. are understood to be planning to take action after it was claimed Iran now has enough uranium for four nuclear weapons.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hardline regime in Tehran has been linked to three assassination plots on foreign soil, according to senior officials in Whitehall

Iran has come sharply back into focus following the end of the Libya conflict.

And the unrest has been inflamed by sabre-rattling from top politicians in Israel.

President Obama said Iran’s nuclear programme continues to pose a threat and that he and French president Nicolas Sarkozy want the international community to maintain pressure on the country to admit its intentions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is preparing to reveal intelligence on Iran’s alleged nuclear arms experiments.

Iran has consistently denied that it is trying to build nuclear weapons and insists the programme is for peaceful purposes.

The U.S., Britain and France want the IAEA to share its intelligence, but Russia and China are pressing for the report to be delayed or scrapped entirely.

Yesterday it was revealed that Tel Aviv had successfully test-fired a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead which could strike Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak are reportedly agitating for a pre-emptive attack against the Islamic state.

The UK would be likely to agree to any U.S. decision to invade, even though the Ministry of Defence are stretched to breaking point by swingeing budget cuts and wars in Afghanistan and Libya.

An MoD spokesman said: ‘The British government believes that a dual track strategy of pressure and engagement is the best approach to address the threat from Iran’s nuclear programme and avoid regional conflict.

‘We want a negotiated solution – but all options should be kept on the table.’

A special unit at the MoD has been instructed to work out the UK’s strategy if the Army should invade Iran.

War planners will look at potential deployments of Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles and RAF fighter jets armed with precision-guided Paveway IV and Brimstone bombs and missiles, surveillance planes and air-to-air refuelling.

Ready for violence: A plume of smoke left by the missile Israel test-fired yesterday (right), thought to be a Jericho missile. Left, another cruise missile. The Israel missile was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead

Senior Whitehall figures have expressed alarm that Iran appeared ‘newly aggressive – and we are not quite sure why’.

Western intelligence has also suggested that Iran is hiding the material for a covert nuclear weapons programme in fortified bunkers which cannot be reached by conventional missiles.

Barack Obama is understood to have no wish to attack Iran in the run-up to the White House elections next year. But Washington may be pressured by Israel if Iran’s nuclear programme is not curtailed.

Mr Netanyahu is apparently also lobbying Cabinet members for a military strike, despite the likelihood it would draw a retaliation from Iran.

An Israeli defence official said the rocket launched by the military had merely been a long-planned test for a ‘propulsion system’.

Further information about the rocket was censored by the military, but foreign reports said it was a long-range Jericho missile – capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and striking Iran.

Israel considers Iran its most dangerous threat. It cites Tehran’s nuclear programme, ballistic missile development, repeated references by the Iranian leader to Israel’s destruction and the government’s support for anti-Israel militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

Mr Ahmadinejad denies his country is trying to produce a bomb, claiming its nuclear programme is only intended to produce energy for the oil-rich country.

But the work could only be for the design and development of a nuclear warhead, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report.

Ready to strike: The Natanz nuclear site, 130 miles south of Tehran, where Iran is believed to be enriching uranium

Concerns: The nuclear power plant in Bushehr, southern Iran. The facility began to be fuelled last year

Israel have repeatedly insisted that economic sanctions could persuade Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions.

Diplomats have been lobbying the international community for tougher sanctions – but have now stepped up their interventions.

It comes as Mr Netanyahu defended his decision to expand settlements in east Jerusalem.

He said it was Israel’s ‘right’ and ‘duty’ to build in all parts of its capital.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war, along with the West Bank. Palestinians claim that section of the city as their future capital.


Inspection: Technicians from the International Atomic Energy Agency check the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan, Iran. Tehran has repeatedly failed to meet its obligations by revealing the construction of nuclear facilities

Work to develop nuclear facilities began in the 1990s, with the Russian Federation providing experts, although the U.S. blocked the trade of equipment or construction of technology for Iran.

International attention was drawn to its developing nuclear potential in 2002 after an Iranian dissident revealed the existence of two sites that were under construction – a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak.

Security implications: The UN has passed seven resolutions aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear aspirations, but most of them have been repeatedly flouted

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sought access to these facilities, but it wasn’t until 2003 that Iran agreed to cooperate with it and suspend enrichment activities. The investigation revealed Iran had failed to meet several obligations, including divulging the importation of uranium from China.

The following year, work began on the construction of a heavy water reactor, but again Iran announced a suspension of uranium enrichment under the terms of the Paris Agreement.

After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as president in August 2005, Iran removed the seals on its enrichment equipment and effectively rejected the Paris Agreement.

President Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully enriched uranium in a televised address in 2006, where he announced the country had joined those with nuclear technology.

Then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had urged the UN Security Council to consider ‘strong steps’ to force Tehran to shelve its nuclear ambitions

Subsequently the UN Security Council has passed seven resolutions on Iran insisting it ends its enrichment activities.

These have included freezing the assets of people and organisations linked to its nuclear and missile programmes.

Three nuclear scientists working on the programme have been killed in the last two years and a computer virus also affected enrichment at the Natanz plant in 2010.


February, 2009: IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran was not allowing UN inspectors to determine if it was working developing nuclear weapons.

June, 2009: IAEA reveals it was blocked from inspecting nuclear facilities, but Mr ElBaradei voices opposition to Israel support for military strike, saying it would turn region into ‘ball of fire’.

July, 2009: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had agreed with President Barack Obama to engage with Iran until the end of the year, but the country would be free to take on the ‘existential threat’ with military force after the deadline passed. Mr Obama also gave Iran until September to adhere to IAEA proposals or ‘face consequences’. Iran threatens to strike back at Israel if its nuclear facilities were targeted.

September, 2009: Second enrichment facility is revealed 20 miles north of Qom, Iran.

January, 2010: Masoul Ali Mohammadi – a particle physicist – is killed by a remote-control bomb as he left for work.

August, 2010: Iran acquires nuclear fuel rods from Russia and begins fuelling of Bushehr I reactor – reportedly to generate electricity.

October, 2010: Stuxnet computer worm infects systems at Natanz enrichment plant, causing centrifuges to crash and suspending work.

November, 2010: Second physicist, Majid Shahriar, killed when bomb was stuck to the side of his car by a motorcyclist.

July, 2011: Darioush Rezaie – third physicist involved in Iran’s nuclear programme – shot dead.

Yesterday, Mr Netanyahu’s office said 2,000 new apartments would be built in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem.

Officials said the move was a response to recent unilateral steps by the Palestinians, particularly its acceptance into the UN cultural agency UNESCO.

He has blamed Israel for disruptions to the nuclear programme, including the mysterious assassinations of a string of Iranian nuclear scientists and a computer virus that wiped out some nuclear centrifuges.

But a report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog due to be published next week will provide fresh evidence of Iran’s activity, bringing the Middle East a step closer to another devastating conflict.

It is the latest of a series of quarterly bulletins on Iran’s arms programme, but will contain an unprecedented level of detail on research and experiments carried out in recent years.

It comes as a draft report revealed China is continuing to provide advanced missiles and other conventional arms to Iran, in violation of UN sanctions against the regime.

The report, from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, revealed China sold $312million of arms to Iran, second only to Russia.

It also noted that after Russia began cutting back arms transfers to Iran in 2008, China became the largest arms supplier to the Iranian military.

Most of the weapons transfers involved sales of Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles, including C-802 missiles that China promised the U.S. in 1997 would not be exported to Iran.

The report says: ‘Because of the relatively short range of these missiles, China’s provision of them to Iran does not violate the Iran, North Korea and Syria Non-proliferation Act of 2006, which seeks to prevent the transfer of only those missiles that can carry a 500kg warhead more than 300km.

‘It is possible, however, that these transactions violate the Iran Freedom Support Act, or the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010, which both use the ambiguous term “advanced conventional weapons.”‘

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