Tehran’s nuke program aiming for a November test?
Excerpted from Michael Ledeen’s latest column for National Review Online, dealing with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Shirin Ebadi.

Meanwhile, back in Foggy Bottom, the State Department continues to try to arrange some kind of modus vivendi with the mullahs. The latest back-channel negotiations have revolved around Iran’s nuclear program, both because there is serious concern in Washington and because it would be very difficult for Secretary Powell to sell the American people on a rapprochement with Iran if Tehran were known to have developed nuclear weapons (remember that Rafsanjani declared, in December, 2001, that if Iran had an atomic bomb it would be used against Israel).
I’m not so sure that Secretary Powell is personally in favor of a rapproachment with Tehran--remember, it’s his job to be the "dove," just as it’s Rummy’s job to be the "hawk"--but Ledeen is probably right about the feelings of some State department underlings. ’Scuse the interruption.
So, in addition to the formal talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the mullahs, the State Department dispatched a former Middle East correspondent of a leading American newspaper to talk to the Iranians. Today he will report near-total failure.
I doubt that anyone’s surprise meter twitched.
The Iranians bluntly told him that the uranium-enrichment program will continue, that the United States is surrounded by enemies in Iraq, and if Washington increases the pressure on Iran there will be terrible consequences.

Some of this is bluster, but for the most part it is an honest statement of Iran’s intentions. As reported here some weeks ago, the Iranians believe they now have all the necessary components for a nuclear bomb. The only question is how long it will take them to assemble and test it. Khamenei had hoped to be able to test an atomic bomb by the third week in October, but his scientific advisers recently told him they could not make that deadline. They are now aiming for November 4 or 5, the anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran during the revolution.

Are they really this close? I’ve not seen this reported anywhere else; on the other hand, Michael Ledeen is really well plugged-in to what’s going on in Iran.

There is another November date our leaders should take seriously: the 25th, the anniversary of the disappearance of the twelfth imam, and thus the most significant date in the Shiite calendar. Reports from Tehran suggest that the mullahs would like to celebrate that anniversary with a big-time terrorist attack against America.

Faster, please.

What he said.
Posted by: Mike 2003-10-14