Iran has been leading the world on a merry chase after the elusive unicorn of nuclear disarmament. It has engaged in talks while simultaneously escalating its drive to pursue nuclear capability, and latest reports are that Iran has tripled its enrichment capacity:
Diplomats say Iran has tripled installations of high-tech machines at its main enrichment facility to more than 600 in three months — machines that could be used in a nuclear weapons program.
They say the machines are not yet producing enriched uranium and some may be only partially installed. Still the move is the latest sign that 10 years of diplomatic efforts have failed to persuade Tehran to curb its uranium enrichment program.
It also suggests that Iran possesses the technology and the raw materials to mass-produce centrifuges that can enrich much faster than its present centrifuges.
In case anyone thought that at least the sanctions against Iran were biting, think again. Iran’s 1st Quarter fuel oil exports rose more than 12% over the 4th Quarter 2012:
Iran exported nearly 18 million barrels of fuel oil in the first quarter, or around 200,000 barrels per day, an increase of nearly 12.5 percent from the previous quarter, according to traders and data from Thomson Reuters Oil Analytics.
The figures show that Iran’s fuel oil exports remain healthy despite tougher Western sanctions aimed at restraining the country’s nuclear ambitions, although the measures have more than halved its exports of crude oil over the past year.
Iran’s market-savvy officials and Gulf-based middlemen have adopted creative strategies to get around the sanctions, from using ship-to-ship transfers, to discharging and loading at remote ports and blending Iran’s fuel oil with other fuels to hide its origin.
Iran’s first-quarter total exports of fuel oil rose around 74 percent from the corresponding period in the previous year and were up nearly 79 percent over the same quarter in 2011, Reuters data showed.
According to Thomson Reuters Oil Analytics, Iran’s total fuel oil exports were 9.8 million barrels, or 108,888 bpd, in the first quarter of 2011 versus the 17.55 million barrels in the same quarter this year.
First-quarter indirect sales of Iranian fuel oil, which is oil resold to independent trading companies based outside Iran, totalled about 9.75 million barrels.
Exports were carried out mostly through ship-to-ship (STS) transfers just inside international waters, the source said.
“NIOC fills up the large supertankers at Kharg Island, and once they are fully laden, they move into international waters for the transfer operations,” said one shipping source familiar with the operations.
“There is no way of tracking these ships, their radars are turned off, and the daughter vessel is usually an old junk.”
Adding insult to injury, Iran is now seeking to export oil to North Korea, another rogue regime which already has proven nuclear capability and which is currently overtly threatening to bomb the United States. From the Times of Israel:
Iran’s oil ministry says the country is considering exporting oil to North Korea as a way to improve its battered economy.
The official IRNA news agency quoted on Saturday Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi as saying talks are underway between Tehran and Pyongyang on oil exports.
An oil deal would bring the two nations deeply at odds with the US and the West closer together. In September, they signed a scientific and technological cooperation agreement. A delegation from North Korea’s oil ministry is currently visiting Iran.
In the light of all these alarming and outrageous reports of Iran’s sanctions-busting and overt flouting of international law, it is certainly very gratifying that US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, on his first official visit to Israel today, announced a huge arms deal with Israel, including:
missiles for its fighter aircraft, plus KC-135 refueling planes that could be used in a long-range strike on a country like Iran, as well as V-22 Osprey transport planes
It is also very reassuring for us to learn that Secretary Hagel has reversed his earlier antagonism somewhat about an Israeli attack on Iran:
“Israel will make the decision that Israel must make to protect itself, to defend itself,” Hagel told reporters before arriving here on Sunday to begin a week-long tour of the Middle East.
Hagel acknowledged that while Israel and the U.S. share a commitment to ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, there “may well be some differences” between the two allies on the question of when Iran’s leaders might decide to go for a bomb.
He said there is “no daylight at all” between Israel and the U.S. on the central goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.
But he added, “When you back down into the specifics of the timing of when and if Iran decides to pursue a nuclear weapon, there may well be some differences.”
However, gratifying and reassuring as it is to receive this support from the United States, it is time, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said, for the rest of the world to act more decisively against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Terrorism (for that is what Iran’s nuclear pursuit amounts to) may start with the Jews but it never stops there.
As former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said to President Obama on his recent trip to Israel: “Don’t be too late” (h/t Dad):