Iran threatens ‘industrial scale’ uranium enrichment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran threatens ‘industrial scale’ uranium enrichment while trying to save deal

FM sets out on diplomatic tour in bid to salvage 2015 nuke accord, but nation’s atomic agency ordered to prepare for operations ‘without restrictions’

Iran Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari talks with Belgian Foreign minister before their meeting at the Palais Egmont in Brussels on January 11, 2018. (AFP/John Thys)

Iran Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari talks with Belgian Foreign minister before their meeting at the Palais Egmont in Brussels on January 11, 2018. (AFP/John Thys)

Iran threatened Friday to start uranium enrichment on an “industrial scale” in response to the US exit from the nuclear deal, while simultaneously seeking to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord through negotiations with European nations.

A statement issued by the government Friday said it had tasked the president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran with “taking all necessary steps in preparation for Iran to pursue industrial-scale enrichment without any restrictions, using the results of the latest research and development of Iran’s brave nuclear scientists.”

At the same time, the statement said the other parties to the agreement — especially Britain, France and Germany — must safeguard the accord, implement their commitments, and “proceed from giving pledges to taking practical action without any preconditions.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will embark on a diplomatic tour to try to salvage the accord, and is seeking “required guarantees” from the five other parties to the agreement as well as Iran’s other economic parties. His spokesman said Zarif will leave late Saturday for visits to Beijing, Moscow and Brussels for meetings with all five of the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Zarif will hold high-pressure talks with the other parties to the deal, first in Beijing and Moscow, and then with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany in Brussels on Tuesday.

All five have condemned Trump’s move to walk out of the deal and reimpose crippling sanctions, but European companies in particular will be highly vulnerable to economic pressure from Washington.

Iran’s official line is that the Islamic Republic is not interested and has never pursued nuclear offensive capabilities. The enrichment of uranium is a requirement for producing nuclear weapons, though lower level enrichment is used for civilian nuclear power and also has medicinal applications.

Israel in late April said it had obtained tens of thousands of secret Iranian documents which proved the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program before the nuclear accord was signed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Iran lied” to the world.

Thousands of Iranians on Friday protested against Trump’s decision to leave the accord that offered Tehran relief from most US and international sanctions in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Iranians set fire to a makeshift US flag during a demonstration after Friday prayer in the capital Tehran on May 11, 2018. (AFP)

Iranian state TV aired footage of protests against the US and Israel at rallies in Tehran and elsewhere after Friday prayers. Thousands marched in the protests, carrying anti-American and anti-Israeli banners and posters. The demonstrators mocked the US president by chanting, “Mr. Trump you cannot do a damn thing,” and, “We fight. We die. We don’t surrender,” Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, France on Friday urged Europeans to stand up to Trump over the nuclear deal and not act as “vassals,” as the EU scrambled to find ways to save the accord and the billions of dollars in trade it unleashed.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Europe-1 radio that Europe should not accept that the US is the “world’s economic policeman.”

“Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers?” Le Maire asked. “Or do we want to say we have our economic interests, we consider we will continue to do trade with Iran?”

European governments tried for months to persuade Trump to stick with the deal but failed, and now fear it will raise the risk of conflict in the region. Aside from the mounting military tensions between Iran and Israel, oil prices are rising on the uncertainty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke Friday and underlined their aim of preserving the deal and peace in the Mideast. And European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini insisted that it’s not up to the US to determine the deal’s future anyway.

“This deal is not a bilateral treaty. It’s a UN Security Council Resolution and it belongs to the entire world,” said Mogherini, who will chair talks Tuesday with the British, French, German and Iranian foreign ministers in Brussels.

Merkel said the US decision to withdraw from the deal was a serious blow, and that it would be difficult to keep the deal alive, given that a “huge economic power has left.

“We hope we can, but there are a lot of things playing a role in this,” she said. “We will have to discuss that with Iran.”

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard welcomes Trump’s pullout from nuke deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard welcomes Trump’s pullout from nuke deal

General Mohammad Ali Jafari says the Americans were ‘not trustworthy’ from the start, adds move won’t have any impact

The head of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks to journalists after his speech at a conference called "A World Without Terror," in Tehran, Iran, October 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The head of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks to journalists after his speech at a conference called “A World Without Terror,” in Tehran, Iran, October 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard welcomed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, saying it was clear from the beginning that the Americans were “not trustworthy” and that the move would have no impact.

The semi-official Fars news agency on Wednesday quoted General Mohammad Ali Jafari as predicting that the European Union, which opposed the pullout, would eventually join the US, meaning the “the fate of the deal is clear.”

He was quoted as saying: “We welcome Trump’s decision on pulling out of the deal. This is not a new event and has no effective role in any field.” He added that “it was clear that the Americans are not trustworthy.”

The Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary force dominated by hardliners, which answers directly to Iran’s supreme leader.

The country’s hardliners and conservatives have long opposed the nuclear pact, and on Wednesday called again to scrap it.

“Trump has torn up the nuclear deal, it is time for us to burn it,” said the hard-line Kayhan newspaper, echoing a recent threat by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Kayhan has been one of the fiercest critics of the agreement, under which Iran vowed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

But the country’s reformists are in favor of preserving the deal.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday slammed Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal as an act of “psychological warfare,” warning that his country could start enriching uranium more than ever in the coming weeks.

President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with officials and industrialists, at a petroleum conference in Tehran, Iran, May 8, 2018. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Rouhani has stated in recent days that he hopes to salvage the deal as much as possible with the help of the other parties — Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the European Union — who have strongly opposed Washington’s decision to pull out.

State television said the decision was “illegal, illegitimate, and undermines international agreements,” Reuters reported.

Speaking live on state television, Rouhani said he wished to discuss Trump’s decision with the European, Russian, and Chinese parties to the 2015 deal. There’s a “short time” to negotiate, he said, adding that he will be sending Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to countries remaining in the accord.

“I have ordered Iran’s atomic organization that whenever it is needed, we will start enriching uranium more than before,” he said, adding that Iran would start this “in the next weeks.”

The Iranian president appeared on the state broadcaster just minutes after Trump announced the historic decision to withdraw the United States from the agreement.

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Iran: Khamenei Refuses to Abandon Iran’s Regional Role

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Khamenei Refuses to Abandon Iran’s Regional Role

Tuesday, 1 May, 2018 – 08:15
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. (Reuters)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei closed the door to any international attempts to negotiate Tehran’s regional role and ballistic missile program, accusing the US administration of waging an economic war against his country run by the US Treasury Department.

Khamenei criticized the positions of US President Donald Trump without naming him, pointing out that years ago he addressed a letter to former US President Georges Bush, in which he said that the “hit-and-run era is over.”

“They know that if they get into a military conflict with Iran, they will be struck multiple times over,” he stated.

Commenting on the international move aimed at containing Iran’s regional threats, Khamenei said the Middle East wars were “the result of the American presence.”

“The United States, not Iran, should withdraw from West Asia,” he stressed.

According to Khamenei, Iran is engaging in an “economic and cultural” confrontation with the United States, claiming that the Treasury Department was leading the war against Iran, in a tacit reference to the possibility of imposing new international sanctions if Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told state media that his country was “fully prepared” for any scenario in case Trump decided to withdraw from the nuclear deal.

“Iran [is] fully prepared for any US scenario on the 2015 nuclear deal,” he said.

Iran’s nuclear chief said that Tehran was technically ready to enrich uranium to a higher level than before, Reuters reported.

According to the agency, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran was able technically to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before it signed the 2015 deal designed to curb its nuclear program.

Netanyahu: Iran Nuclear Deal Is Based on Lies – Here’s the Proof

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF HAARETZ NEWS AGENCY)

 

Netanyahu: Iran Nuclear Deal Is Based on Lies – Here’s the Proof

‘Iran did not come clean on its nuclear program,’ Netanyahu says, saying more than 100,000 Iranian documents Israel obtained prove nuclear ‘deal is based on lies’ ■ Speech comes on heels of strike against two bases in Syria and ahead of Trump’s decision on nuclear deal

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel April 30, 2018. REUTERS
Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel April 30, 2018. \ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a cache of documents he says proves Iran lied to the world about its nuclear program, even after the nuclear deal with the world. “Iran did not come clean about its nuclear program,” Netanyahu said in a prime time address in English.

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Presenting 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs, Netanyahu said Iran hid an “atomic archive” of documents on its nuclear program.

skip – Netanyahu LIve

Netanyahu LIve – דלג

Iran is “blatantly lying” when it says it doesn’t have a nuclear program, Netanyahu claimed, laying out what he claimed was proof Iran had developed and continued to develop its nuclear program.

Netanyahu referred to a secret Iranian nuclear project, codenamed “Amad,” which he said had been shelved in 2003, though he said work in the field had continued.

Netanyahu concluded by saying “Iran lied about never having a secret nuclear program. Secondly, even after the deal, it continued to expand its nuclear program for future use. Thirdly, Iran lied by not coming clean to the IAEA,” he said, adding that, “the nuclear deal is based on lies based on Iranian deception.”

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Netanyahu over the phone on Sunday to discuss the current situation in the Middle East, the White House said. The readout of their phone conversation stated that they “discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East region, especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities.”

In a rare move, Netanyahu called the heads of Israel’s two news broadcasts and updated them with the content of his planned statement.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said before Netanyahu’s speech that the prime minister is just “the boy who can’t stop crying wolf at it again.”

Netanyahu’s speech comes after an airstrike in Syria Sunday night in which 200 missiles were destroyed and 11 Iranians were killed, according to pro-Assad sources. Various reports attribute the strike to Israel, but the origin of the attack remains unconfirmed.

According to several Syrian media outlets, the strikes targeted the 47th Brigade base in the southern Hama district, a military facility in northwestern Hama, and a facility north of the Aleppo International Airport. The strike reportedly targeted an arms depot of missiles.

The strikes came as tensions increase between Israel and Iran in Syria and the U.S. deadline on Iranian sanctions regarding the nuclear deal, May 12, draws near.

'Iran lied': Presenting 55,000 pages and 183 CDs, Netanyahu says Iran hid an 'atomic archive'
‘Iran lied’: Presenting 55,000 pages and 183 CDs, Netanyahu says Iran hid an ‘atomic archive’Noa Landau

>> What happens if Trump pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal? 

Israeli defense and political sources told Russia and the United States on Sunday that if Iran attacks Israel from Syria, either itself or through its proxy, Hezbollah, Jerusalem will respond forcefully and target Iranian soil.

Later, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said that the current terms of the Iran deal are no longer sustainable for them- regardless of whether or not the U.S. ends the deal.

skip – 6

skip – javad

“The status quo of the deal is simply not sustainable for us, whether or not the Americans get out of the deal,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said, according to Iranian news agency Isna.

Meanwhile, world leaders such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel have visited U.S. President Trump in an attempt to convince him to maintain the terms of the nuclear deal, termed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump spoke with Netanyahu, who vocally opposes the deal, over the phone on Sunday to discuss the current situation in the Middle East, the White House said. The readout of their phone conversation stated that they “discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East region, especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities.”

Visiting in Israel Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will cancel the Iran nuclear deal if it is not fixed. Pompeo made the statement following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, which took place at the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Pompeo said the U.S. stands with Israel against Iran. “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats toward Israel and the region,” Pompeo said, adding that the U.S. supports Israel’s right to defend itself.

 

Iran Admits To Them Not Adhering To ‘Nuclear Deal’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(IF IRAN IS IN A BETTER POSITION RIGHT NOW IN REGARD TO URANIUM ENRICHMENT WHILE UNDER THE ‘NUCLEAR DEAL’ THEN IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN IN VIOLATION OF THAT DEAL FOR SOME TIME NOW)

Tehran warns it can enrich uranium to higher levels than before nuclear deal

Head of Iran’s atomic agency says he hopes ‘Trump comes to his senses’ and does not quit accord

Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi talks at a conference on international cooperation for enhancing nuclear safety, security, safeguards and non-profileration, at the Lincei Academy, in Rome, October 10, 2017. (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi talks at a conference on international cooperation for enhancing nuclear safety, security, safeguards and non-profileration, at the Lincei Academy, in Rome, October 10, 2017. (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization warned Monday that Tehran is technically able to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before it signed a nuclear deal with six world powers in 2015.

Directing his comments at US President Donald Trump, who is considering scrapping what he calls a terribly flawed agreement in the coming days, Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by Iranian state TV as saying, “Iran is not bluffing … Technically, we are fully prepared to enrich uranium higher than we used to produce before the deal was reached… I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal.”

Salehi made his comments hours before Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was slated to address Israel and the watching world on Monday evening in remarks relating to Iranian nuclear activities.

According to Israel’s Hadashot news and Channel 10 news, Netanyahu will reveal intelligence information, based on a large cache of documents recently obtained by Israel, which he believes proves Iran has duped the world regarding the state of its nuclear program.

A satellite image of Iran's Fordo uranium enrichment facility (photo credit: AP/DigitalGlobe)

A satellite image of Iran’s Fordo uranium enrichment facility. (AP/DigitalGlobe)

Trump has given Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia until May 12 to fix what he sees as the main shortfalls in the deal.

So far, all these countries have said they will stand by the original deal and Tehran has threatened grave consequences if it is cancelled.

Iran stopped producing 20 percent enriched uranium when it signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 in return for the lifting of sanctions against Tehran.

To make a nuclear bomb, uranium needs to be enriched to 80% to 90% purity.

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China applies its own maximum pressure policy on Pyongyang

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

China applies its own maximum pressure policy on Pyongyang

  • Beijing appears to have gone well beyond U.N. sanctions on its unruly neighbor, reducing its total imports from North Korea in the first two months this year by 78.5 and 86.1 percent in value — a decline that began in late 2017, according to the latest trade data from China.
  • Trade with China is absolutely crucial to North Korea’s survival.
  • Estimates vary, but it is believed that roughly half of all transactions in the North Korean economy are made in foreign currencies, with the Chinese yuan being the most common.That gives Beijing tremendous leverage, though for political and national security reasons it has generally been reluctant to exert too much pressure on Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a military parade in Pyongyang marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

STR | AFP | Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a military parade in Pyongyang marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

As the U.S.-North Korea summit looms, President Donald Trump‘s maximum pressure policy on North Korea may be working — thanks to China.

Beijing appears to have gone well beyond U.N. sanctions on its unruly neighbor, reducing its total imports from North Korea in the first two months this year by 78.5 and 86.1 percent in value — a decline that began in late 2017, according to the latest trade data from China. Its exports to the North also dropped by 33 percent to 34 percent both months.

The figures suggest that instead of being sidelined while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his surprising diplomatic overtures to Seoul and Washington, China’s sustained game of hardball on trade with Pyongyang going back at least five months may have been the decisive factor in forcing Kim’s hand.

Trade with China is absolutely crucial to North Korea’s survival.

It accounts for the largest share of the North’s dealings with the outside world and provides a lifeline to many of the necessities Pyongyang relies on to keep its nation fed and its economy from breaking down. Estimates vary, but it is believed that roughly half of all transactions in the North Korean economy are made in foreign currencies, with the Chinese yuan being the most common.

That gives Beijing tremendous leverage, though for political and national security reasons it has generally been reluctant to exert too much pressure on Pyongyang.

That reluctance is clearly wearing thin.

The statistics need to be taken with a dose of caution. Neither country is known for its commitment to transparency. Even so, more specific data reveal an even tougher, targeted crackdown, according to Alex Wolf, a senior emerging markets economist with Aberdeen Standard Investments:

— China’s exports of refined petroleum have collapsed over the past five months — to an annual rate of less than 4 percent of what it exported last year. With the pace on a downward trend, he believes, total exports could actually fall further.

— North Korean steel imports from China have also collapsed in 2018, and the same goes for cars. Wolf notes that it’s unclear if China is blocking such exports or North Korea simply can’t afford them. But either one, he wrote in a recent report for the company, would be a clear signal the North’s economy is “under a great deal of stress.”

“While China’s role over the past few months has often been overlooked or little understood, it appears a strategy could be emerging: China wants to play a central role in ‘resolving’ this crisis, but wants to do it on its own terms,” he wrote. “It’s increasingly clear that Chinese pressure is a driving force and China will play a central role in any future talks.”

Kim announced in his New Year’s address he would reach out to the South to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He then agreed to hold a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 and with Trump after that. But to the surprise of many, Kim suddenly showed up in Beijing first for a summit with President Xi Jinping last month, underscoring the continued primacy of China in North Korea’s foreign relationships.

Lu Chao, director of the Border Study Institute at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, noted that China accounts for almost 80 percent of the North’s total trade, meaning the onus for implementing U.N. sanctions has been mainly borne by Beijing, whose enforcement has created “huge pressure on North Korea.”

“There is no doubt China is doing more than ever when it comes to sanctions,” he said, adding restrictions on sales of textile and seafood products to North Korea imposed by China last autumn “have dealt a huge blow to the country.”

“China has played a very important role in promoting the current change of the situation,” he said.

The decrease in trade isn’t just about politics.

China’s economy is also dealing with overproduction in many industries and its demand for North Korean imports is low. Efforts at joint development projects have languished and difficulties suffered by Chinese firms in North Korea — especially problems receiving payment — have soured enthusiasm for cross-border trade.

But the deficit presents an obvious dilemma for the Kim regime: the more it depletes its foreign reserves by buying in excess of what it sells, the less money it has to buy anything at all. Normally, that would lead to inflation — and even hyperinflation — as imported necessities become scarcer and people who can afford to do so dump their holdings in the local currency to buy safer U.S. dollars or Chinese yuan.

Georgetown University economist William Brown said he believes the North’s current account deficit has risen dramatically since the strengthening last November of sanctions on North Korean exports by China, which he said are by now “certainly biting.”

“Why is Kim venturing his offer now? My impression is he is feeling very strong pressure from China’s virtual embargo on North Korea’s exports, and what he must see as a gradual ratcheting down of needed imports, even petroleum,” Brown wrote in a recent blog post. “This is an enormous economic hit of a sort the country has never had to deal with on this scale.”

Brown believes an important indicator of the North’s economic health will be movement of the unofficial but widely used exchange rate for the North Korean currency, which has been surprisingly stable at around 8,000 to the U.S. dollar for years but should now be under intense inflationary pressure.

“China is giving us the chance, and (we should) use it cleverly to get what we want out of the nuclear program and systemic reform,” he added. “It’s not so impossible if you realize everyone, even young Kim, can benefit.”

Israel Confirms They Blew Up Assad’s Nuclear Reactor A Decade Ago

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Announcement about 2007’s ‘Operation Orchard’ sure to remind Iran what happened to the last country with atomic ambitions, though the real reason to divulge now may be more humdrum

Main image by Israel Defense Forces

The State of Israel on Wednesday formally acknowledged that its air force blew up a Syrian nuclear reactor in the area of Deir Ezzor in the pre-dawn hours between September 5 and 6, 2007, in a mission known to much of the world as Operation Orchard.

The official confirmation ends a 10-and-a-half year policy of referring to the event with a smirk and a wry “according to foreign reports.”

The strike constituted Israel’s second application of the Begin Doctrine, which calls on the Jewish state to destroy any enemy country’s nuclear capabilities. The doctrine was named for prime minister Menachem Begin, who set its precedent by ordering the bombing of Iraq’s nascent nuclear reactor in 1981. (In that instance, Israel took responsibility for the attack almost immediately, to much international reprobation.)

The pilot of an F-15I fighter jet, from the Israeli Air Force’s 69th Squadron, gets into his airplane ahead of an operation to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor on September 5, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The message of the attack on the reactor in 2007 is that Israel will not accept the construction of a capability that threatens the existence of the State of Israel. That was the message in ’81. That was the message in 2007. And that is the message to our enemies for the future,” IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said in a statement regarding the 2007 bombing.

Before and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which was reportedly struck by Israel in 2007 (AP/DigitalGlobe)

Before and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which was reportedly struck by Israel in 2007. (AP/DigitalGlobe)

According to Israeli and American intelligence, the Deir Ezzor site, known in Syria as al-Kibar, contained a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor that was capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, similar to North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility. It was close to being up and running when Israel destroyed it in Operation Orchard (which the army also refers to as Nigun Shaket, or Silent Melody, and Mihutz L’Kufsa, or Outside the Box).

While this is the first time Israel has taken official responsibility for the attack (the reasons behind this decision are discussed below), the rest of the world has not kept mum about the historic raid.

Reports about the 2007 Syrian reactor mission leaked within days, including specific details like the number of fight jets that took part in it — eight — and that North Korea was believed to have supplied technical know-how and materials to Syria.

The then opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu even landed himself in hot water in the weeks following the operation for discussing it too candidly, telling reporters that he’d given his go-ahead to then prime minister Ehud Olmert for the attack.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, stands next to Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha, right, and Chief of Staff Gen. Fahed al-Jasem el-Freij, left, during a ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, in Damascus, Syria, last year (photo credit: AP Photo/SANA)

Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, stands next to Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha, right, and Chief of Staff Gen. Fahed al-Jasem el-Freij, left, during a ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, in Damascus, Syria, in 2011. (AP Photo/SANA)

The view that prevailed in Israel at the time was that keeping news of the strike as quiet as possible would help Syrian dictator Bashar Assad save face in the world and prevent him from feeling he had to retaliate, which could have potentially led to all-out war, something an Israel still reeling from the painful 2006 Second Lebanon War desperately wanted to avoid. Israeli officials refer to this policy as giving Assad a “zone of denial.”

In 2012, a comprehensive article by David Makovsky was published in the New Yorker. In it, the magazine claimed, was almost every detail about the operation, including the tonnage of the bombs — 17 — and the fact that Amir Peretz, the defense minister when Israel began planning the attack, had to use a prepared notecard in his conversation with his American counterpart because of his limited English.

Then-US president George W. Bush welcomes then-prime minister Ehud Olmert to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington in May of 2006. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Then US president George W. Bush welcomes then prime minister Ehud Olmert to the Oval Office of the White House, May 2006. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Former US president George W. Bush even referred to the attack explicitly in his 2010 memoir, Decision Points, saying the success of the Israeli strike “made up for the confidence I had lost in the Israelis during the [2006] Lebanon war.”

And yet, for over a decade, one of the most daring missions in the history of the Jewish state could only be referred to by the Israeli press with a healthy dose of allegedlys, purportedlys, and reportedlys — something that irked journalists to no end.

Not even when Deir Ezzor was captured by the Islamic State terror group in 2014 did Israel reveal that it had destroyed a nuclear reactor in the region. This, despite the fact that Israel would have been able to proudly tell the world that, had it not hit the reactor, we might all have been forced to deal with the chilling notion of that death cult getting its hands on atomic weapons. (It is possible that the Syrian army might have fought harder to hold the region, which it ultimately recaptured, if nuclear bombs had been at risk.)

Finally, on Wednesday — rather fittingly, in the pre-dawn hours — after 10 years, six months, and 15 days, Israel ended its silence.

Here is what happened:

Starting in late 2004, Military Intelligence and the Mossad espionage service began receiving unverified information about foreign experts helping Syria develop a military nuclear program.

A portion of an intelligence report from late 2004 in which the army says there is a possibility that Syria is constructing a nuclear reactor with help from North Korea, Pakistan, or an unknown third country. (Israel Defense Forces)

The scanned cover sheet of a top-secret IDF document from the time shows that Israeli intelligence apparently suspected the experts were coming from North Korea, Pakistan, or a third, unknown country.

Though the mission was ultimately successful, this would later turn out to have been something of an intelligence failure, as North Korea had been working with Syria since at least 2001 or 2002; accounts differ on the exact start time.

Over the next year and a half, the army and Mossad collected information concerning a Syrian nuclear program, getting their first break in January 2006, when they found the first piece of “substantial evidence” that Syrian President Bashar Assad was building a reactor.

In April of that year, Military Intelligence’s Unit 9900, which specializes in analyzing satellite imagery, spotted a number of suspicious buildings on a site in the northern Deir Ezzor region that it designated “Rubik’s Cube,” according to a scan of an IDF document from the time.

A portion of an intelligence report from November 1, 2006, in which the army says it increasingly believes Syria is constructing a nuclear reactor. (Israel Defense Forces)

Over the course of the next months, the army and Mossad gathered more intelligence on the suspected nuclear reactor.

“The assumption that there is indeed a Syrian nuclear project is being strengthened,” the Military Intelligence’s powerful Research Division wrote in a memo in November 2006.

In early March 2007, the investigation got a big break. Mossad agents obtained pictures that were shot inside the “Rubik’s Cube,” including ones showing North Korean officials at the site. The photographs confirmed Israel’s suspicions that it was indeed a plutonium reactor.

A portion of an intelligence report from March 30, 2007, in which the army says it appears Syria is constructing a nuclear reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, with help from North Korea. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Syria is building in its territory a nuclear reactor for the production of plutonium, with North Korea, which according to [initial] rigorous assessment is liable to be operational in about a year. To our assessment [redacted] it is clandestine and meant to achieve a nuclear weapon,” the Research Division wrote in an intelligence brief a few weeks later, according to a scan of the document released by the army.

At this point, Israel decided to bring the United States into the loop.

In April, Olmert dispatched then defense minister Peretz to Washington — with his aforementioned notecard — to meet with then US secretary of defense Robert Gates and apprise him of the situation.

Bush instructed the CIA to verify Israel’s claims, which the security service largely succeeded in doing.

“If it’s not a nuclear reactor, then it’s a fake nuclear reactor,” a former senior US official told Makovsky in 2012.

The Syrian al-Kibar nuclear reactor, which was destroyed by Israel, on September 6, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

Yet the United States was not entirely convinced that the reactor was actually capable of producing nuclear weapons and therefore wanted to address the issue diplomatically, according to Bush’s memoirs.

Olmert was concerned that Assad would stall the negotiations for long enough for the Syrians to bring the reactor online, and told Bush his “strategy is very disturbing to me.”

An F-16I fighter jet of the Israeli Air Force’s 119th Squadron prepares to take off during an operation to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor on September 5, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

With the US unwilling to conduct a strike against the Syrian reactor, Olmert and Israel’s top defense officials set to work preparing to carry out the raid themselves.

By this point, Peretz had been replaced by Ehud Barak as head of the Labor party and also as defense minister.

There was some disagreement in the security cabinet over the timing of the preemptive strike on the nuclear reactor, with Barak pushing for it to be later and Olmert calling for it to happen as soon as possible. It remains a contested issue whether these differences of opinion stemmed from purely military concerns or from more political considerations. In the aftermath of the failure-plagued Second Lebanon War, Barak might have thought he could win the next election and gain a feather in his cap by having the strike carried out under his premiership. Olmert may have been looking to regain some of the respect he lost for his management of the 2006 war.

Ultimately, however, on September 5, the security cabinet approved Olmert’s plan for an immediate attack, giving him, Barak, and then foreign minister Tzipi Livni the authority to decide when exactly to conduct the strike.

Gabi Ashkenazi, the IDF chief of staff at the time, called for the attack to happen that night.

An airman from the Israeli Air Force’s 253rd Squadron prepares for an operation to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor on September 5, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

Up until that point, the number of people informed of the operation had been kept to an absolute bare minimum in order to ensure secrecy, with anyone informed of it being forced to sign a strict non-disclosure agreement.

Not even all of the pilots who conducted the raid knew about it until just before they took off. In the months preceding the attack, the teams had unknowingly been training for it, practicing the kind of dive-bombing that they would later perform for real in Deir Ezzor.

“They didn’t know the target; they didn’t understand why. In every squadron there was only one pilot who was the contact person. The other teams were only informed of the target just a few hours before the operation,” said Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, who was head of air force operations at the time, in a statement released this week.

As the strike on Assad’s nuclear facility had the potential to spark an all-out war, a handful of senior army officers were informed of it in the hours before the operation began, in order to put their troops on high alert.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot discusses an Israeli operation to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor that took place 10 years ago, on September 5-6, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The day before, I brought in all the heads of the divisions. I presented them with the intelligence assessment — generally, I mean, I didn’t give them the details on the target and its nature. But I told them that there would be a very serious attack in the coming 24 to 48 hours, which had a relatively low possibility of leading to war,” said current IDF chief Eisenkot, who was at the time head of the army’s Northern Command, in a video statement released this week.

Eisenkot noted that since the army was trying to keep the attack a secret, it made no visible preparations ahead of it, in effect “sacrificing readiness for surprise.”

An F-16I fighter jet of the Israeli Air Force’s 253rd Squadron prepares to take off during an operation to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor on September 5, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

The airmen taking part in the operation came from three squadrons, Squadrons 119 and 253, which both fly the F-16I, and Squadron 69, which flies the F-15I.

The notes prepared by the head of the Israeli Air Force’s 119th F-16I Squadron ahead of an operation to destroy a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007, in which he says the mission will “‘change the face of the Middle East.” (Israel Defense Forces)

During a briefing before the mission, the commander of Squadron 119 wrote in his notes that the operation “will change the face of the Middle East.”

On September 5, the head of the air force at the time, Eliezer Shkedi, gave the pilots and navigators their official orders, telling them the operation was “of the utmost importance to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

The document told them that their mission was to “destroy the target, break contact without losing a plane, and fly with a ‘low signature’ as much as possible.”

“The goal is that the operation will not be connected, at least not at first, to the State of Israel, and thus limit the potential for widespread war,” Shkedi’s orders stated.

The official orders presented by the head of the air force to the pilots and navigators taking part in an operation to destroy a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

At 10:30 p.m. on September 5, the fighter jets began take-off procedures.

They were reportedly joined by an electronic warfare aircraft that would jam the Syrian air defenses, feeding them a false picture of empty skies. The army will still not officially comment on this aspect of the mission.

The Israeli planes flew north and then through Turkey to Syria, without permission, in order to conduct the surprise strike, for which Olmert later apologized to then-Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after the empty fuel tanks of some of the planes, which were dropped for weight reasons, were found in the Turkish countryside, near the Syrian border.

The night of the attack, Olmert, Barak, Livni, then IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Shkedi, and other senior officials gathered in “the pit” — Habor, in Hebrew — a special command center deep underground in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters, in order to monitor the operation.

At approximately midnight, the fighter jets reached their target and dropped — according to Makovsky — 17 tons of explosives on the site, which the air force had taken to calling Ein Habasor, or Habasor Spring, a reference to a location in southern Israel where, in the Bible, King David is said to have fought and killed the evil Amalekites.

Video footage from the strike, which was released by the army this week, shows multiple bombs hitting the main square building that is believed to have housed the nuclear reactor, reducing it to a fireball and then rubble. The planes can then be seen making a second pass and bombing the rubble, completely and utterly destroying the site and killing all those inside.

Senior Israeli Air Force officers, including IAF chief Eliezer Shkedi, center, react to the successful bombing of the Syrian al-Kibar nuclear reactor by Israel on September 6, 2007. (Screen capture/Israel Defense Forces)

Shortly before 1:00 a.m., the pilots sent back the codeword indicating the operation was a success: “Arizona.”

Footage from air force control center in “the pit” shows the moment the bombs strike their target. Brig. Gen. Yohanan Locker, then head of the air force’s training and aerial activities, can be seen raising his hands in triumph, as Shkedi nods in satisfaction.

Images from the moments following the attack show the destruction of the al-Kibar site. Later, satellite pictures would show the results of the strike in far greater detail.

Shortly afterward, Ashkenazi praised the heads of the air force squadrons that took part in the operation.

Airmen from the Israeli Air Force’s 253rd Squadron embrace after bombing a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor on September 6, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The aims of the strike were the destruction of the reactor, the prevention of escalations to war, and the strengthening of deterrence in the region. I think we have stood by these targets, at least for now, with great success,” he said.

Barak joined him in lauding the air force pilots, saying that not only was the mission an immediate success, but that it will also have an impact on the future.

“The operation removed an actual existential threat to Israel. The operation strengthened Israel’s ability to deter hostile countries and organizations, and our operational capabilities have been greatly empowered — from planning, to intelligence identifying capabilities, to carrying out missions,” Barak told the squadron commanders.

Immediately following the attack, Syria did not know how to react. Its official SANA news outlet initially reported that “air-defense units confronted [Israeli fighter jets] and forced them to leave after they dropped some ammunition in deserted areas without causing any human or material damage.”

Later, Assad acknowledged that a military facility had been hit, but denied that it was a nuclear reactor.

Olmert sent a message to Syria through Erdogan, telling Assad that Israel would not tolerate another Syrian attempt to build a reactor, and that Jerusalem was prepared to keep quiet about the strike as long as Damascus did the same, according to the 2009 Der Spiegel report.

The Israeli prime minister also had Erdogan relay an invitation to Assad for indirect peace talks. (Assad accepted, but these later fell apart and amounted to nothing.)

Then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak, IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, air force chief Eliezer Shkedi, along with all the defense officials and airmen who took part in the top-secret operation to destroy a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007, pose for a group photograph two months later, on December 18, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

In 2008, Israel was largely vindicated, as the International Atomic Energy Agency tested the area around al-Kibar and found high levels of uranium. Later, graphite and barium sulfate, used in the reactor’s concrete, were also discovered in the immediate vicinity of the destroyed site, according to reports by the agency.

Syria officially denied the site was a nuclear reactor, telling IAEA the uranium came from the bombs used by Israel in the strike, something Israel categorically denied. The IAEA was also unconvinced of Syria’s claim. Later, the organization reported that the site was “very likely” an undocumented nuclear reactor.

Time passed. Netanyahu replaced Olmert as prime minister in 2009. Israel’s immediate concerns turned from Syria’s nuclear program to Iran’s, not that Tehran was ever out of Jerusalem’s sight. The Syrian civil war broke out. Deir Ezzor, specifically the area around al-Kibar, was conquered by the Islamic State group in 2014. People shuddered — what if?

And now, some 3,849 days since the IAF destroyed Syria’s al-Kibar nuclear reactor — give or take a few hours — Israeli news outlets can say as much, freely.

So why now?

There was no one reason given for the decision to remove the censorship on the al-Kibar strike, but it most likely came from a variety of considerations, among them repeated legal appeals by media outlets to get rid of the ban.

It is easiest to see this announcement as a not-so-subtle threat to atomically ambitious Iran, especially given the fact that in the coming months US President Donald Trump may abandon the 2015 nuclear deal, unless significant alterations are made to it.

This can be seen most clearly in Eisenkot’s comment that the attack serves as a “message to our enemies for the future.”

The message of the attack on the reactor in 2007 is that Israel will not accept the construction of a capability that threatens the existence of the State of Israel

But former deputy national security adviser Chuck Freilich told The Times of Israel he’s not convinced that’s the full story.

“This may be part of a signal to the other side, but I think that’s reading a bit too much into it,” he said.

While Freilich acknowledged that Israel might be taking advantage of the announcement in order to send such a message to Iran, he also offered a somewhat less geopolitical and more patriotic reason for the decision to reveal the existence of the operation: next month marks Israel’s 70th anniversary of existence. The story of Israel’s bold and successful operation can serve as yet another feature in the showcase of the tiny Jewish state’s outsized achievements.

Israeli Air Force commander Amikam Norkin discusses an Israeli operation to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor that took place 10 years before, on September 5-6, 2007. (Screen capture/Israel Defense Forces)

Indeed, Norkin credits the mission as being “one of the most important decisions that was made in the past 70 years.”

More domestically, Frelich added, “Netanyahu will be able to make use of this for his purposes as well.”

The current backdrop that is the devastating reality of war-torn Syria, where there have been numerous chemical weapons attacks over the past eight years, also helps justify Israel’s actions in 2007.

“Imagine that today there was a nuclear reactor in Syria. You can think to yourself what kind of situation we’d be in,” IAF chief Norkin said in a video statement released this week.

Over 10 years later, Syria is also far, far less likely to feel it has to respond, making it a bit safer for Israel’s to remove the “zone of denial.”

The air force chief noted that the pilots and teams that took part in the 2007 raid received no official accolades for their actions, due to the secrecy surrounding the operation. Perhaps it was also time for them to get what was due.

In November 2017, Eisenkot and Norkin held a ceremony and handed out official letters of appreciation to the soldiers who took part in the operation, though their identities remain a secret.

“Some of the fighters who led the operation are now at the highest ranks of the air force and IDF,” Norkin says.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a Keshet TV interview broadcast on March 17, 2018. (Keshet screenshot)

Ultimately, though, the immediate cause for the timing of the revelation might be a bit more banal: Ehud Olmert wrote a memoir, which is due to be distributed shortly.

While this reporter has yet to read the book, “In First Person,” it’s hard to imagine that it doesn’t feature prominently.

How could Olmert, who left office under police investigation and was later sent to prison for corruption, and who sustained bitter criticism over his mishandling of the 2006 Lebanon war, leave out one of his crowning, lasting achievements?

But whatever the reason, Israeli journalists and officials can now drop the at-times farcical “according to foreign reports” from their coverage of this dramatic operation.

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