There is lots of Mideast tension in the news this week including alleged Russian delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran, Russian military defense of Iran, other weapons procurement by Iran, and various threats and counter-threats.

Given that Bloomberg is reporting on the story, at least some of the news is highly likely to be valid.

Iran Threatens Israel’s Existence if Attacked

Bloomberg reports Iran Threatens ‘Israel’s Existence’ If It Attacks

Iran will respond if Israel attacks its first nuclear power plant, which will begin loading fuel Aug. 21, according to the Persian Gulf country’s defense minister.

“In that case we will lose a power plant, but Israel’s existence will be in danger,” Ahmad Vahidi was cited as saying today by the state-run Mehr news agency, in response to questions about the possibility of an attack by Israel on the Russian-built atomic facility at Bushehr.

Israeli leaders have said that all options are on the table in dealing with Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Iran is under four sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear program, which the U.S. and many of its allies say is aimed at creating a weapon. Iran, the second-largest oil producer in the Middle East, denies the allegation, saying it needs nuclear energy for civilian purposes, such as generating electricity.

The Bushehr power station will begin producing electricity in several months, Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Rosatom Corp., the Russian state nuclear holding company that built the plant, said Aug. 13.

Saudi Daily says Military Option Best Solution to Crisis

A Saudi Daily Editorial says Military Option Best Solution to Crisis

“Tehran’s [August 13, 2010] announcement, confirmed by Russia, that an Iranian nuclear reactor would be inaugurated this month in Bushehr, on the Arabian Gulf coast, and that it would be equipped with fuel and would operate as a nuclear facility, is an indication that the region is now entering a new phase.

“In taking this action, Tehran is ignoring all the advice, warnings, and requests to halt its nuclear program, or at the very least to try to continue it under clear and open international inspection that would guarantee that it does not have a military facet. If [Tehran] insists upon going ahead [with the program] without the agreement of the international community, it will bring embarrassment and suspicion upon every [country] that supported [Iran’s] right to peaceful nuclear energy.

“More importantly, by means of this action, Tehran is moving its conflict with the international community into high gear, and [in this case] some may consider the military option to be the best solution. [Delaying recourse to this option] may lead to a point where it is impossible to implement it – if Tehran manages to produce a nuclear bomb of its own.

Russia to load fuel into reactor on Saturday

The Jerusalem Post reports ‘Israel has days to strike Bushehr’

Israel has only mere days to launch an attack on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor if Russia makes good on its plan to deliver fuel there this weekend, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton warned Tuesday.

He said that once Russia has loaded the fuel into the reactor — slated for Saturday – Israel would no longer be willing to strike for fear of triggering widespread radiation in an attack.

Russia signed a contract with Iran to construct the Bushehr reactor in 1995, but has several times delayed completion. In announcing the long-overdue fuel installation, which should make Bushehr operational in September, Russia did not indicate why it was going ahead with the final stages now.

In addition to Bushehr — for which Russia says it has guarantees it will receive back the spent fuel, the material needed to make a nuclear bomb — Iran has its own uranium enrichment facilities.

Iran expert Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council said that the uranium enrichment plants are the real backbone of Iranian efforts and expenditures to get a nuclear weapons capability, and he suspected that they, rather than Bushehr, would be Israel’s primary targets in any attack.

He suggested that Bolton was setting up a “straw man” by focusing on the fuel delivery to the Bushehr reactor.

“It’s not at all clear that Bushehr would be a high value target because it’s only tangentially related to any conceivable Iranian nuclear weapons program,” he said. “My suspicion is this isn’t a game changer. This isn’t going to give Iran enough fissile material for a bomb overnight.”

Berman added that since Bushehr is the most public Iranian nuclear facility, and therefore well monitored by international inspectors, it was also a less likely candidate for use by Iran to construct a bomb, though he nevertheless said if it became operational it would be “an enormous PR coup for the Iranians.”

Hot Air or Real Threat?

News that Russia is going to deliver fuel to Iran seems very credible. That the US or Israel is about ready to attack Iran in preemptive action does not seem credible.

Neither the stock market nor the commodity market is acting as if anything is imminent.

Daily Crude

click on chart for sharper image

That chart just does not reflect “trouble on the way”. Nor does a chart of the dollar, nor does a chart of the S&P; 500.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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