Iranian expert: Fully-operational Fordow nuke facility Iran’s trump card

Reza Kahlili Contributor
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Iran believes that once its formerly secret nuclear facility at Fordow becomes fully operational, threats of military attacks by the West will become harmless and other nations will have to lift their economic sanctions against the Islamic regime.

In an interview Tuesday on Iran’s state-owned television network IRIB, Mehdi Mohammadi, an international affairs and nuclear program expert, said the full operation of Iran’s Fordow Nuclear Enrichment Plant “will change the strategic equation of Iran’s nuclear issue” and create a new environment for negotiations with the West.

Mohammadi regularly appears on Iran’s state media. He is often quoted by both Iranian and international media on Iran’s nuclear program and Middle Eastern affairs.

An account of Mohammadi’s television appearance was described on the independent news website, which has quoted several Iranian authorities this year on matters concerning the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

In the Tuesday interview, also mentioned more briefly in other Iranian news outlets, Mohammadi said the most important tools for the West in confronting the Iranian nuclear program are military threats and sanctions.

“Sanctions became the cane under the arms of the seditionists,” he said. “Their goal was to put pressure on the [Iranian] people, but the regime did not allow it to have such an effect.”

Since Fordow is immune to a military attack, he said, its full operation will make any military threat irrelevant and therefore will cause the West to lose motive for continuing sanctions.

Other experts told The Washington Post last month that the heaviest U.S. bunker-buster bombs could, in fact, breach the Fordow plant.

Last month the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, reported that 900 centrifuges have been installed at Fordow. Those centrifuges allow Iran to enrich uranium to the level of 20 percent purity, which is 90 percent of the level required for nuclear weapons. The IAEA also said another 2,000 centrifuges could be installed at the Fordow facility.

While the West believes a military option and sanctions will make the leaders of the Islamic regime change course, the Iranians believe a more aggressive nuclear program will convince the West to give up its threats and accept a nuclear Iran.

Mohammadi referred to a recent report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that claims Israel had destroyed Iranian nuclear sites six months ago, stating that the Israelis currently are psychologically unbalanced and distressed. “The occupier of the Quds [Jerusalem] is very worried that it will be left alone in confronting Iran and that even America and Europe will not buy its logic.”

Mohammadi said the current geopolitical situation in the Middle East is a big shock to Israel. The Islamic regime sees the uprisings in the region as an “Islamic Awakening” that will ultimately result in the defeat of Israel and America.

The West, he added, did not believe Iran would be able to install working fuel rods in a nuclear research reactor, and expected Iran to accept the terms of negotiations at the 2011 “five plus one” meeting in Istanbul.

But Mohammadi said that not only has Iran increased the number of centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility to 9,000, but it also has installed a new generation of centrifuges that enrich uranium faster.

He said the goal of assassinating the Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari in 2010 was to stop Iran’s advancement in nuclear fuel rods, but “the enemy did not succeed in stopping Iran’s achievement.”

The website described Mohammadi’s characterization of Israel as “psychologically unbalanced and distressed.”

The world learned about the existence of the Fordow site in 2009 when the Iranians disclosed it to the IAEA right before President Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy mentioned the site at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Israeli officials have stated their concerns that a fully operational Fordow plant would create a “zone of immunity” for the Islamic regime where the Iranians could further enrich the 20 percent stock to weapons-grade material within weeks.

On Feb. 15, Iranian officials announced a series of nuclear achievements: loading their Tehran reactor with domestic nuclear fuel plates, increasing the Natanz facility’s inventory of centrifuges by 3,000 and installing a new generation of centrifuges there that can boost the production of enriched uranium by half.

The Islamic regime in Iran continues with its illicit nuclear enrichment program despite four sets of U.N. sanctions. It has enough low-enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs – that material would require further enrichment before becoming weaponizable.

Iran is also concurrently expanding its missile program and working on intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the author of the award winning book, “A Time to Betray.” He teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy.