BY : JOEL . C . ROSENBERG
Evidence continues to mount that an Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program is increasingly likely before the U.S. elections in November. In just five days, the 2012 Epicenter Conference will begin. There, I will deliver the opening address on “The State of the Epicenter,” review what we know about the Iranian nuclear threat and the prospect of war, brief you on the stepsThe Joshua Fund has taken to prepare for war, and discuss what Christians can and should do to stand with Israel at this critical time. Please make plans to attend the Epicenter Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, next week—or watch the conference live (or on demand) atwww.epicenterconference.com.
Until then, here are some of the latest developments I’m watching closely:
- Iran has doubled its uranium enrichment capacity at its most secure, hardened, underground nuclear facility at Fordow, near the religious city of Qom, despite all of the economic sanctions, according to a new IAEA report. Israeli PM Netanyahu sayssanctions are hurting Iran’s economy but not persuading the regime in Tehran to stop pursuing nuclear weapons. Netanyahu this week warned the international community (and especially the U.S.) to make clear what its “red lines” are., the point at which negotiations and sanctions are deemed a failure and military action is required. “The Iranians are using the talks with the major powers to gain time in order to advance their nuclear project,” Netanyahu said. “I believe that the truth must be told—the international community is not setting Iran a clear red line and Iran does not see international determination to stop its nuclear project. Until Iran sees a clear red line and such determination, it will not stop the progress of its nuclear project—and Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons.”
- Israel’s 14-member Security Cabinet met on Tuesday for a 10-hour meeting to discuss the latest intelligence on the Iran nuclear threat and consider Israel’s military options. TheJerusalem Post notes that this was the first time the full Security Cabinet has met for such an in-depth discussion of Iran in several months. Developments in Syria and Egypt were also discussed in the meeting. Reuters reported that “Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper, had quoted an unnamed participant in the security cabinet’s discussions a day earlier as saying: `We heard detailed, disturbing and very troubling information regarding the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.'” It was reported that no vote was taken on operational decisions, but that could be disinformation to confuse Iran.
- “Former Likud and Kadima member Tzachi Hanegbi said this week that he believed the fate of Israel’s conflict with Iran will be decided within the next 50 days,” reports the Israel Hayom news service. “Hanegbi, who is considered a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, later told Israel Hayom the assessment was his own and not based on specific information disclosed to him. ‘We are entering the most fateful 50 days Israel has faced since, perhaps, the similarly fateful days prior to the Yom Kippur War,’ Hanegbi said at a Likud conference this week, as quoted by the Makor Rishon newspaper. Hanegbi, who in the past served as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee as well as minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2004 and Internal Security Minister in 2003, recently left the Kadima party and rejoined the Likud.
- Rep. Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is confirming a report of an angry meeting between Israeli PM Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in which Netanyahu made it clear the Israeli government does not trust the Obama administration to stop Iran’s nuclear program in time. Rogers described the meeting as “very tense. Some very sharp… exchanges and it was very, very clear the Israelis had lost their patience with the (Obama) Administration…. There was no doubt. You could not walk out of that meeting and think that they had not lost their patience with this Administration.”
- Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to be in New York City to address the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly from September 27 to September 30. If Israel has not launched an attack before then, and he does in fact make the trip, it would be expected that Netanyahu may give a final ultimatum to the regime in Tehran.
- Canada has just shut down its embassy in Iran and will expel all Iranian diplomats from Canada in the next five days. With this move, Prime Minister Stephen Harper remains the most pro-Israel leader on the world stage. He also may be signaling he believes war is imminent.
- That said, the left-of-center Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting this week that Defense Minister Ehud Barak may now oppose an Israeli strike against Iran before the U.S. elections in November. There is considerable buzz about this in Israel. But the question is whether this reporting is accurate, or whether this is disinformation designed to confuse the Iranian regime.