Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
ISIS report indicates Iran cheated with the Fordow uranium enrichment facility – should we be surprised? Rogan on the HMS Duncan. More threats from Tehran. SECSTATE Hunt offers Iran deal on the tanker – will they accept and then cheat? More on the proposed maritime escort scheme for the Gulf. More on Europe’s scheme to bypass sanctions and give European exporters monopoly access to Iran’s markets (let us not forget European manufacturers breaching sanctions by selling Iran dual use vehicles later incorporated in IRBM TELs).
Tehran’s game shows no sign of shifting as yet. It will be interesting to see how they respond to the UK offer. The temptation to shoot missiles at Western flagged ships will be irresistible given their domestic agendas.
Summary The Fordow uranium enrichment facility has never been repurposed, as promised in the JCPOA. Everything required to enrich uranium to weapons grade could be quickly reconstituted in the underground portion of the facility. Fordow is potentially part of Iran’s current threats to progressively go to higher enrichment levels and increase its stocks of enriched uranium, and if conducted there, Fordow’s underground tunnel complex is fortified to withstand aerial bombardment. Fordow now includes semi-indigenous nuclear equipment production and potentially illicit procurement at the newly expanded support area, the former which was not likely intended by the JCPOA, and the latter which is prohibited. The Iranian Nuclear Archive (a portion of which was seized by Israel) shows that Fordow’s original, intended purpose dating back to at least 2002 was to produce weapon-grade enriched uranium for 1-2 nuclear weapons per year. There is no doubt it could be reconstituted to fulfill that purpose.1 The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), implemented in January 2016, specified that the Fordow enrichment facility in Iran would be converted into a “nuclear, physics and technology centre” with the purpose of international scientific collaboration. Yet, little has been converted, beyond explicitly mandated work on stable isotope separation, and the language in the JCPOA is ambiguous in any case in terms of what exactly the Fordow facility should become. The Fordow compound includes both the well-known tunnel complex housing gas centrifuges and an above-ground support area a few kilometers away. Since the implementation of the JCPOA, however, Iran has been bolstering its ability to build gas centrifuges at the support area, while maintaining its surge capability to produce weapon-grade uranium in the tunnel complex. In an ominous development, Iran recently announced the opening of key new centers at the support area, which in part aim to ease Iran’s dependence on importing controlled goods for its centrifuge program through the establishment of what appears to be a semi-indigenous nuclear-related equipment production line. The development of these capabilities exploits a JCPOA loophole and is unlikely to fulfill what was envisioned as international collaboration for the Fordow facility under the JCPOA. Iran’s activities may also involve violations of the JCPOA’s procurement restrictions and strategic trade controls and sanctions of individual countries. Suppliers need to be on guard against Iran violating sanctions and strategic trade controls in its efforts to obtain relevant subcomponents for the new center from abroad. Iran is now increasing its enrichment levels and stockpile in violation of the JCPOA and could feasibly do so at Fordow, which is heavily fortified against military intervention to halt it (if for example, Iran decided to break out to nuclear weapons or increase uranium enrichment levels to weapon-grade). New information has come to light since the implementation of the JCPOA about Fordow’s original, intended purpose. The Nuclear Archives seized by Israel from Tehran in early 2018 certify that the Fordow facility was originally intended for weapon-grade uranium production for an initial five nuclear weapons. Instead of further legitimizing the mistake in the JCPOA of granting the continued operation of the Fordow enrichment facility, the Trump administration should no longer grant a waiver for stable isotope separation work there. Given its connections to Iran’s former nuclear weapons program, the priority should be on investigating Fordow’s origins. The United States could consider reinstating a waiver if the stable isotope production work is moved to the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, where it should have been in the first place.
A number of Iranian officials have discussed increasing the level of uranium enrichment to 20 percent at the site—a figure most experts say can be achieved fairly quickly.
The Iranian regime has never “repurposed” the Fordow uranium enrichment facility as required by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the Islamic Republic and world powers, the Institute for Science and International Security said in an explosive report Wednesday. The deal stated, “Iran will convert the Fordow facility into a nuclear, physics and technology centre.” However, the report noted that the facility has in fact “never been repurposed” in that “everything required to enrich uranium to weapons grade could be quickly reconstituted.” Fordow, one of Iran’s largest fuel-enrichment plants, is located in a fortified secret bunker buried outside the city of Qom. In violation of international agreements, the country failed to declare the construction of the facility and admitted to its existence only after it was exposed by Western intelligence. Iran also admitted in the past to violating United Nations Security Council resolutions by enriching uranium to 20 percent at Fordow. Enrichment of this kind is militarily significant as it enables an easy and quick shift to weapons-grade 90 percent enriched uranium in a matter of months.
TEHRAN’S nuke scientists are ready to massively step up uranium enrichment at the heavily-fortified Fordow Plant, a top security think tank said on Wednesday. The bombshell report from the renowned Institute for Science and International Security claimed that efforts are underway at the facility to hugely increase its uranium stocks.
Britain is deploying another Royal Navy warship to the Persian Gulf, and it’s a grave signal.
The British Navy sent another warship to the Persian Gulf region after one of its destroyers fended off three Iranian ships attempting to harass a British tanker.
Gibraltar police say four men being questioned after the interception of vessel in suspected breach of EU sanctions.
British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt told his Iranian counterpart on Saturday that Britain would facilitate the release of the detained Grace 1 oil tanker if Tehran gave guarantees it would not go to Syria.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt says the seized tanker will be released if its oil isn’t headed to Syria.
Joint Chiefs Chair Dunford and Army chief Milley note that the Pentagon is developing a coalition plan to escort tankers in the Strait of Hormuz to protect from Iranian attack.
European nations say they have a way to both keep Iran in the nuclear deal and help mitigate the effects of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s economy.
European powers are likely to put off for weeks a decision on triggering a dispute procedure in the nuclear deal with Iran, which might worsen tensions with the U.S. over how to deal with Tehran.
Iran’s defense minister warned that those trying “to violate the sacred territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be met with a decisive and crushing blow that will instill regret.”
A UAE military spy satellite crashed down to earth during a failed launch attempt, drawing attention to the advanced surveillance capabilities being deployed in the Middle East as tensions continue to rise.
FRIGHTENING footage captures the moment a United Arab Emirates spy satellite experienced a mission failure, after crashing into the Atlantic following its launch.
The US is threatening stability in the Middle East. Britain must support the Iran nuclear deal, says author Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi
The House proposal would bar the Trump administration from using any federal funds for military force “in or against” the Islamic Republic.
The administration has ratcheted up regional tensions with no good plan for resolving them.