Iraqi attack probably came from an ally

Iraq militia denies role in anti-U.S. attacks, welcomes pressure on Saudi

Thomson ReutersFeb 23, 2021 11:43 AM

Fargo, ND, USA / The Mighty 790 KFGO | KFGO

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An Iran-aligned Iraqi militia group on Tuesday denied any role in recent rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq, but said an attack against Saudi Arabia last month was justified.

It is a rare direct denial and the first time the Kataib Hezbollah group, one of the Iraqi factions closest to Iran, has commented on the most serious incident this year, a rocket attack in Erbil on Feb. 15 that killed a contractor working with U.S.-led forces.

The attacks over the past 10 days are an escalation against U.S. sites in Iraq at a time when Washington and Tehran are looking for a way to return to the nuclear deal abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kataib Hezbollah, the most high-profile Iran-backed militia in Iraq, does not usually comment on specific attacks.

Its direct denial of actions against U.S. interests while Washington says it is still determining who carried out the Erbil attack is a sign that Iran and its allies wish to avoid an escalation that could bring a tough U.S. response.

Some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being carried out by militants with links to Kataib Hezbollah as a way for Iranian allies to harass U.S. forces without being held accountable.

“We absolutely did not target Erbil or the Green Zone and have no knowledge of the group that did,” Kataib Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Mohi told Reuters.

In the Feb. 15 attack, rockets hit the U.S. military base housed at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region killing one non-American contractor. Another salvo struck a base hosting U.S. forces north of Baghdad days later hurting at least one contractor.

Rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone on Monday which houses the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic missions.

Mohi, whose group demands a withdrawal of 2,500 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and opposes Western influence there, said those who carried out the attacks wanted Washington to harden its stance on Iran or target Iraqi militia.

He said a chance must be given for a U.S.-Iranian detente, which could result in U.S. troops leaving the country.

Tensions have been high in Iraq and the wider region since the U.S. killing of Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah senior leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad in January 2020 sparked fears of a full regional war.

Washington’s Gulf Arab ally Riyadh has been increasingly targeted in the past year, including two aerial assaults in the past weeks.

Some Western and regional officials have said one of those, on Jan. 23, which Saudi Arabia said it thwarted, appeared to be launched from Iraqi soil for the first time. Iraqi security officials have said they have no evidence it was launched from Iraq.

Mohi did not comment on whether Kataib Hezbollah had any links with the group that claimed the attack, Alwiyat Alwaad Alhaqq.

“We have not claimed it … but we do say that people in the region who have suffered from Saudi (policy) have the right to retaliate,” he said, responding to a question about whether Kataib Hezbollah was involved.

(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Alison Williams)

Pentagon Realizes Iran Not Responsible for Iraq Attack

Pentagon Acknowledges ‘Uptick’ in Violence in Iraq, Declines to Name Iran

A second attack in two weeks against an area housing U.S. personnel on Monday bears all the signs of another act of violence by Iran, yet the Pentagon says it’s continuing to investigate.

The Pentagon on Monday acknowledged an “uptick” in violence in Iraq against installations housing U.S. forces that mirror prior attacks orchestrated by Iran, though it continued to decline to attribute the latest incidents to any specific set of perpetrators..

Defense Department spokesman John Kirby described the troubling security situation in Iraq moments after the U.S. headquarters there confirmed a rocket attack against the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad. Those reports came a week after a rocket attack against a base housing U.S. forces outside Irbil in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region that killed at least one contractor from the U.S.-led coalition and injured many others.

“It’s difficult to say with any certainty whether there’s a strategic calculation driving this uptick – this recent uptick in attacks or whether this is just a continuation of the sorts of attacks we’ve seen in the past,” Kirby said Monday afternoon.

Though alluding to prior violence that the Trump administration was all too eager to attribute to Iran, Kirby said the U.S. is still investigating these latest attacks and is not yet prepared to release its findings.

Speculation has mounted in the week since the attack in Irbil that the White House may be trying to downplay a new threat posed by Iran and its proxy forces in Iraq, particularly as American officials in the region and Kurdish authorities have already indicated privately to U.S. News that preliminary investigations show Iran and its proxy militias in Iraq were behind last week’s attack.

Kirby last week pushed back on the idea that political considerations were overriding public confirmation of the source of the attacks, saying, “I would not read into the manner in which we’re going about this as some sort of policy derivative.”

President Joe Biden has repeatedly stressed his desire to open new lines of diplomatic engagement with Tehran as a sharp break from the Trump administration’s punishing “maximum pressure campaign.” Last week, the State Department indicated it is now willing to engage with Iran through international partners on the future of its nuclear program, one of the thorniest international issues the administration faces.

Tehran appeared to shoot down this offer almost immediately, saying the U.S. must first lift the devastating economic and diplomatic sanctions the Trump administration imposed after it unilaterally broke from the 2015 nuclear accord before any negotiations may proceed. In addition to the uptick in violence in Iraq, Iran has also continued pursuing uranium enrichment at levels the State Department says could only be used for developing a nuclear weapon and that mark a clear break from the terms of the 2015 deal.

Analysts say the current administration has been more forgiving in its response to these provocations than its predecessor.

“At least for now the Biden administration is looking past Iran’s unwise and dangerous temper tantrums,” Nazee Moinian, a non-resident scholar with the Middle East Institute’s Policy Center, wrote in an analysis note on Monday.

A spokesman for the U.S. mission overseeing the conflict against the Islamic State group and other extremists confirmed Monday’s attack via Twitter, saying initial assessments indicated no casualties or major damage. The rockets fell at roughly 7:30 p.m. local time, Army Col. Wayne Marotto of Operation Inherent Resolve said. Local Iraqi authorities indicated three rockets were launched in the attack.

The Iranian Horn is Nearly Nuclear: Daniel 8

Khamenei says Iran may enrich uranium to 60% purity if needed

Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday Iran might enrich uranium up to 60% purity if the country needed it and would never yield to U.S. pressure over its nuclear programme, state television reported.

FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wears a mask during a virtual speech, in Tehran, Iran February 17, 2021. Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers, which it has been breaching since the United States withdrew in 2018, caps the fissile purity to which Tehran can refine uranium at 3.67%, well under the 20% achieved before the agreement and far below the 90% suitable for a nuclear weapon.

“Iran’s uranium enrichment level will not be limited to 20%. We will increase it to whatever level the country needs … We may increase it to 60%,” the TV quoted Khamenei as saying, upping the ante in a stand-off with U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration over the future of the fraying deal.

“Americans and the European parties to the deal have used unjust language against Iran … Iran will not yield to pressure. Our stance will not change,” Khamenei said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Khamenei’s comments “sounds like a threat” and declined to respond to what he described as “hypotheticals” and “posturing”.

He reiterated U.S. willingness to engage in talks with Iran about returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.

The Biden administration said last week it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to the accord abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Tehran said last week it was studying a European Union proposal for an informal meeting between current members of the deal and the United States, but has yet to respond to it.

Iran, which has resumed enriching to 20% in an apparent bid to heap pressure on the United States, has been at loggerheads with Washington over which side should take the initial step to revive the accord.

Although under domestic pressure to ease economic hardships worsened by sanctions, Iranian leaders insist Washington must end its punitive campaign first to restore the deal, while Washington says Tehran must first return to full compliance.

DIPLOMACY PATH

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday Washington intended to bolster and extend the 2015 pact, which aimed to limit Iran’s enrichment potential – a possible pathway to atomic bombs – in exchange for a lifting of most sanctions.

Blinken, addressing the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, said in a pre-recorded speech: “The United States remains committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. Diplomacy is the best path to achieve that goal.”

Khamenei, in his televised remarks, repeated a denial of any Iranian intent to weaponise uranium enrichment.

He added: “That international Zionist clown (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) has said they won’t allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons. First of all, if we had any such intention, even those more powerful than him wouldn’t be able to stop us.”

To pressure the Biden administration to drop sanctions, Iran’s hardline-dominated parliament passed a law last year obliging the government to end roving snap inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog from Tuesday if sanctions are not lifted.

Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said Iran had ended the implementation of the so-called Additional Protocol, which allows International Atomic Energy Agency to carry out short-notice inspections at midnight (2030 GMT).

To create room for diplomacy, the U.N. watchdog on Sunday reached a deal with Iran to cushion the blow of Iran’s reduced cooperation and refusal to permit short-notice inspections.

Iranian lawmakers protested on Monday at Tehran’s decision to permit “necessary” monitoring by U.N. inspectors for up to three months, saying this broke the new law.

Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams

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Who Killed the Civilian Contractor in Iraq Rocket Attack?

Civilian Contractor Killed in Iraq Rocket Attack

A February 15 rocket attack on United States’ troops in northern Iraq killed one civilian contractor and injured several others, including one U.S. serviceman and several American contractors. While approximately 14 rockets were lobbed at the U.S. airbase in Erbil, only three landed inside the base. The other rockets fell on nearby residential areas in this Kurdistan capital city.

Why Khamenei’s nuclear lies are worthless: Daniel 8:4

Why Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa is worthless

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wears a mask during a virtual speech, in Tehran, Iran February 17, 2021. (Reuters)

The Iranian regime has long claimed that its nuclear program is only meant for peaceful purposes, rather than to obtain nuclear weapons. It believes that the world should accept its claim because Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has in the past issued a fatwa forbidding the production or use of nuclear weapons.

Khamenei reportedly wrote in a 2010 letter to the International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament that: “We consider the use of such weapons as haram (religiously forbidden) and believe that it is everyone’s duty to make efforts to secure humanity against this great disaster.” The supreme leader also states on his official website that the production and use of nuclear weapons are banned by Islamic laws: “Both Shariah and aqli (related to logic and reason) fatwas dictate that we do not pursue them.”

When Iran’s leaders meet with world leaders, they frequently and conveniently refer to Khamenei’s words, using them to explain why Tehran is not seeking a nuclear bomb. For example, when Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with US Sen. Rand Paul in 2019, he told him about Iran’s unwillingness to seek nuclear weapons precisely because of this fatwa.

Putting Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities aside, Khamenei’s fatwa has unfortunately become something that not only Iran’s leaders, but also other world leaders, use to insist that Tehran’s nuclear program is peaceful. For instance, former US President Barack Obama, in an attempt to seal the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, declared in his address to the UN General Assembly in 2013 that: “The Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.” Former US Secretary of State John Kerry also said: “The supreme leader says he has issued a fatwa, the highest form of Islamic prohibition against some activity, and he said that is to prohibit Iran from ever seeking a nuclear weapon.”

Hillary Clinton added her support by further pushing the narrative of the Iranian regime. According to her: “The other interesting development which you may have followed was the repetition by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that they would — that he had — issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, against weapons of mass destruction… I have discussed this with a number of experts and religious scholars.”

Iran’s constitution was written in a way that allows the government to prioritize codified laws over religious fatwas.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

But any scholar or astute observer of the Islamic Republic would be cognizant of the fact that fatwas issued by the supreme leader are more like political statements aimed at ensuring the regime’s survival rather than “the highest form of Islamic prohibition.” For one thing, Iran’s founding father and its first supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued fatwas that he later modified. So what is there to prevent Khamenei from changing his fatwa on banning nuclear weapons?

More fundamentally, although the Islamic Republic stresses the significance of Islamic law, its leaders wrote Iran’s constitution in a way that allows the government to prioritize codified laws over religious fatwas. According to article 167 of the constitution, “the judge is bound to endeavor to judge each case on the basis of the codified law.” It adds: “In case of the absence of any such law, he has to deliver his judgment on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwa.”

In other words, just as the Iranian parliament recently passed a law banning monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency inspecting Iran’s nuclear sites, it could also pass a law allowing the government to pursue nuclear weapons for the survival of the Islamic Republic. Such a law would override Khamenei’s fatwa, according to the Iranian constitution.

This also shows that the main goal of the Islamic Republic’s constitution was not to implement Islamic laws, but to ensure the power of the theocratic establishment. Even Khomeini mentioned on several occasions that Islamic laws could be ignored if necessary. He pointed out that “the government is empowered to unilaterally revoke any Shariah agreements which it has concluded with the people when these agreements are contrary to the interest of the country or Islam.” On another occasion, Khomeini stated that “the government can prevent Hajj, which is one of the important divine obligations, on a temporary basis, in cases when it is contrary to the interests of the Islamic country.”

That is why Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, who is a close adviser to Khamenei, pointed out this month that Iran may in fact pursue nuclear weapons despite the supreme leader’s fatwa. He said: “I must make it clear that, if a cat is pushed into the corner, it may behave differently from a cat that walks freely. If Iran is pushed into a corner, it will not be its fault (i.e., the pursuit of nuclear weapons) but rather the fault of those pushing it.”

In spite of the Iranian leaders’ rhetoric, the evidence shows that Iran’s nuclear program is not intended for only peaceful purposes.

• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

The Iranian Horn Never Halted Its Nuclear Program : Daniel 8

Signs Iran’s nuclear weapons program never halted

Traces of radioactivity were found recently at two Iranian sites where Tehran has reported no nuclear activity.

Raphael Ofek

(February 21, 2021 / BESA Center)

Samples collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at two Iranian sites where Tehran has not reported any nuclear activity showed traces of radioactivity. Although the IAEA refrained from naming the sites in its quarterly report of June 5, 2020, they were identified last year by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington. The identification was based on information extracted from the Iranian nuclear archive smuggled out of Tehran and into Israel in January 2018.

The first site visited by IAEA inspectors in August 2020 was a pilot plant for uranium conversion, with an emphasis on the production of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride, a uranium compound which, in its gaseous phase, enables the enrichment of uranium by centrifuges). This site, located about 47 miles southeast of Tehran, operated under the aegis of the Amad military nuclear program. In documents from the Iranian nuclear archive, this location is referred to as the “Tehran Site.” The facility was dismantled in 2004.

The other site was Marivan, located near the town of Abadeh in central Iran. This facility, also part of the Amad program, was designed to conduct “cold tests” of nuclear weapons (that is, to simulate the activation of a nuclear explosive device using natural uranium rather than weapons-grade uranium). This included operating a multipoint explosive system for the activation of a nuclear weapon, as well as the development of its neutron initiator.

According to satellite imagery published by ISIS, Iran razed part of the Marivan facility in July 2019, more than a year before they allowed IAEA inspectors access to it. It is likely that this was done to prevent exposure to nuclear activities that had taken place there in the past. (This was not the first time the Islamic regime had razed nuclear sites: it did so at the Lavizan-Shian facility in Tehran in 2004 and the Parchin facility in 2012.) It is possible that the traces of radioactive materials found in samples taken by IAEA inspectors in August 2020 indicate renewed efforts to develop a neutron initiator for nuclear weapons previously conducted at the Marivan site.

The IAEA report of June 5, 2020, referred to a third location as well. Though its name was not revealed in the report, it was implied that it was the facility the regime had previously operated in Lavizan-Shian. This suspicion was based on the fact that between 2002 and 2003, a metallic natural uranium disc was found at the site that had been processed by drilling and hydriding (compressing hydrogen atoms inside uranium), an activity Iran neither reported to the IAEA nor provided an explanation for. This finding suggests that the regime had attempted to develop a UD3 neutron initiator at the site.

In addition to all of the above, Iran periodically intensifies its confrontation with the IAEA, causing great concern to the United States and the West. The following are examples:

• Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent, a level that can serve as a springboard to 90 percent (weapons-grade). The regime announced on Jan. 28 that it had accumulated 17 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium and intends to reach an annual production capacity of 120 kg. Note that 150-200 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium are required to reach 15-20 kg of 90 percent enriched uranium. (According to other calculations, Iran could accumulate 90 percent enriched uranium for its first bomb within a matter of a few months.)

Iran recently installed three cascades at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, each containing 174 advanced IR-2m centrifuges. They were scheduled to go into operation as early as Jan. 30, with the aim of reaching 1,000 operational centrifuges of this type at Natanz within three months. Iran also began installing two cascades, each with about 170 of the more advanced IR-6 centrifuges, at the Fordow enrichment facility.

• On Jan. 13, Iran informed the IAEA that it was researching the production of metallic uranium—an activity which, if true, is another violation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement. Britain, France and Germany have expressed concern that the metallic uranium produced by Iran will be used for nuclear weapons development.

• Iran has not yet provided the IAEA with a plausible explanation for the low-enriched uranium particles found by agency inspectors in 2019 in samples taken from a warehouse at the Turquzabad site in Tehran. An IAEA report from last November said the particulate compounds were similar to particulates found in Iran in the past that turned out to have been from imported centrifuge components (purchased from Pakistan, according to earlier publications). This theory was backed up by the fact that the particles included (among other things) the uranium-236 isotope, which does not exist in nature but is formed as a result of neutron capture by the uranium-235 nucleus—a process that takes place inside a nuclear reactor. As far as is known, it is unlikely that the process of manufacturing the particulates containing uranium-236 took place in Iran.

The problem of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is now largely in the hands of Joe Biden, though he is not enthusiastic about taking it on. Biden stated during his election campaign that he intends to return the United States to the JCPOA, albeit with amendments, and remove the sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration, but it is doubtful that he has formulated a clear policy on this issue so far. He did, however, announce on Feb. 8 that the United States will not lift sanctions until Iran fulfills its obligations under the JCPOA.

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Feb. 1 that the breakout time in which Iran might ramp up enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade “has gone from beyond a year [under the deal] to about three or four months.” He also said an agreement with Iran should be “longer and stronger.” However, many of Biden’s newly appointed officials (including Blinken) are former members of Barack Obama’s administration who were deeply involved in negotiating the JCPOA. The appointment of Robert Malley as the U.S. special envoy to Iran raises particular concerns. If the United States does return to a courtship of Tehran, the task of dealing with the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons may be left primarily to Israel.

IDF Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, a BESA Center Research Associate, is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community.

Iran Repeats The Obama Tactics With Biden

Iran learning it can threaten Biden to get its way on nuclear talks: Ric Grenell

When Tehran makes threats, Biden ‘is going to hop to it and respond to them,’ ex-DNI tells ‘Your World’

David Rutz

Iran has already shown it can pressure the Biden administration into granting concessions related to its nuclear weapons program, former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell told “Your World” Friday.

The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, but Biden campaigned on reentering it and rescinded Trump’s efforts to reimpose United Nations sanctions against Iran.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the Biden administration would “accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program.”

The announcement came days after a rocket attack on a U.S. airbase in northern Iraq that was claimed by an Iranian-linked Iraqi Shiite militia. However, the Biden administration has yet to formally blame any group for the attack.

We’ve seen with the Iranians over the last two days a threat,” Grenell told host Neil Cavuto. “They said that if we didn’t drop all the sanctions … that they would not allow the inspectors back in. We already have a very weak inspection regime there.”

Grenell noted that Europe’s foreign ministers have said Iran’s threatening rhetoric is not a good sign for the prospects of peace, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden have taken the opposite approach.

The lessons, I think, that the Iranians learn [is], when they use threats against the United States, the Biden administration is going to hop to it and respond to them,” he said. “I think it’s a really slippery slope.”

David Rutz is a senior editor at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @davidrutz.

The Russian Horn Tries to Remediate the Iranian Nuclear Horn

Moscow calls on Iran for ‘restraint’ after uranium metal production

Updated 12 February 2021 AFP AP February 12, 2021 02:25

MOSCOW: Russia has urged Iran to show restraint after it started producing uranium metal in a new breach of limits laid out in Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

“We understandz do the logic of their actions and the reasons prompting Iran. Despite this it is necessary to show restraint and a responsible approach,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Wednesday that it had verified the production of 3.6 grams of uranium metal at a plant in Iran.

The landmark deal — reached in 2015 by the US, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain — contained a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys.”

Iran said last month it was researching uranium metal production, a sensitive issue because uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons.

Ryabkov said Iran’s move demonstrated Tehran’s “determination not to put up with the current situation,” after it warned that time was running out for US President Joe Biden’s administration to save the agreement.

In 2018, US President Donald Trump dramatically withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.

Trump’s successor Biden is seeking to revive the agreement, but the two sides appear to be in a standoff over who acts first.

Ryabkov’s remarks came as Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Thursday began a ground forces drill near the Iraqi border, state TV reported.

The report said the annual exercise was ongoing in the southwest of the country and had aimed at readiness and assessment of forces.

Drones and helicopters will be used in the drill, too.

In recent months, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President Biden over the nuclear accord.

In January, the Guard conducted a drill and launched anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean.

A week before that, Iran’s navy fired cruise missiles as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, state media reported, under surveillance of what appeared to be a US nuclear submarine. That came after speedboats parade in the Gulf and a massive drone exercise across the country.

More Missiles Hit US Bases in Iraq

Rockets Hit Iraqi Base Hosting US Contractors, 1 Iraqi Injured

TIKRIT, Iraq , Feb 20 (Reuters) – Three rockets hit theIraqi military air base of Balad north of Baghdad on Saturday,injuring one Iraqi contractor, Iraqi security officials said onSaturday.

No group immediately claimed the attack. It was the secondsalvo of rockets to hit a base hosting U.S. forces orcontractors in less than a week.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because theyare not authorised to speak to the media. Armed groups that someIraqi officials say are backed by Iran have claimed similarincidents in the past.(Reporting by Ghazwan Hassan; Writing by John Davison; Editingby Giles Elgood)

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Grow: Daniel 8

Satellite images reveal Israel quietly expanding secretive Dimona nuclear site

Friday, 19 February 2021 2:30 PM  [ Last Update: Saturday, 20 February 2021 6:17 AM ]

Newly-released satellite images have revealed that the Israeli regime — the sole possessor of nuclear arms in the Middle East — is conducting “significant” constructive activities at the highly-secretive Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev Desert.

Citing commercial satellite imagery of the facility, the International Panel on Fissile Material (IPFM), a group of independent nuclear experts from 17 countries, reported Thursday that “significant new construction” had been underway at the Dimona complex.

The construction site sits “in the immediate vicinity of the buildings that house the nuclear reactor and the reprocessing plant,” the report said.

The IPFM’s website said the construction had “expanded and appears to be actively underway with multiple construction vehicles present,” adding, however, that the purpose was not known.

It was unclear when the construction work began, but Pavel Podvig, a researcher with the program on science and global security at Princeton University, told The Guardian that the project had apparently been launched in late 2018 and 2019.

“But that’s all we can say at this point,” he added.

Israel has tightly withheld information about its nuclear weapons program, but the regime is estimated to be keeping at least 90 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, according to the non-profit organization Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

The warheads, FAS said, had been produced from plutonium obtained at the Dimona facility’s heavy water reactor.

Israel in possession of close to 100 nuclear warheads: SIPRI

A new report reveals that the Israeli regime, which has a long-standing policy of not commenting on its nuclear arsenal, is in possession of approximately 100 nuclear warheads.

Dimona, which is widely believed to be key to Israel’s nuclear arms manufacturing program, was built with covert assistance from the French government and activated sometime between 1962–1964, according to reports.

Israel has acknowledged the existence of the Dimona nuclear reactor, but neither confirms nor denies the purpose of the facility, which is assumed to be the manufacturing of nukes.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have warned that Dimona — one of the world’s oldest nuclear facilities — could pose enormous environmental and security threats those living in the area and to the entire Middle East, calling on the regime to shut down the complex.

Turning a deaf ear to international calls for nuclear transparency, the regime has so far refused, with the US’s invariable support, to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.