By: Kamala Kelkar
As warnings mount regarding Iran developing a nuclear weapons arsenal — including an alarming U.N. agency report and a mysterious deadly explosion — President Obama is flailing in his efforts to build an allied response.
Iranian officials yesterday downplayed the “accidental” blast that they say happened Saturday at a Revolutionary Guard ammunition depot west of Tehran while soldiers were transporting munition.
Initial reports said that as many as 40 soldiers died, but that number decreased to 15, including a senior general of the Guard.
Reverberations from the blast were felt as far as 30 miles away. There was still no official cause for the explosion yesterday.
The explosion came days after Israel publicly debated whether to launch military strikes against the country’s nuclear and long-range missile facilities.
And Israeli officials in past weeks have warned Iran of the possibility of strikes against its nuclear sites.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Israel refused to agree to warn Obama in advance of any action, so he reacted by ordering more monitoring of Israel for clues.
Agence France-Presse reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday told military radio, “I don’t know the extent of the explosion,” then added, “But it would be desirable if they multiply.”
Iranian officials yesterday also detected a computer virus in their system based on the spying Stuxnet worm and blamed Israel for trying to gain remote access to its industrial control systems.
Tension between Iran on the one side and the United States and other Western countries on the other has increaseed since Tuesday, when the International Atomic Energy Agency accused Iran of working toward development on nuclear warheads. Iranian officials such as Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi were already denying the report before it was published.
President Obama’s response was to emphasize the threat of sanctions and meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference with the presidents of Russia and China, who are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council.
But neither Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev nor China’s Hu Jintao has made any reaction to the U.N. report.
The idea of a nuclear-armed Iran had GOP presidential hopefuls, such as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, ready to talk war during their debate in North Carolina on Saturday night.
Romney said that if covert operations and “crippling sanctions” fail, military action could be necessary.
“If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon,” Romney said.
Romney’s strategy was backed by Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., yesterday, who said you “have to neuter this regime” during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“Destroy their air force, sink their navy, go after the Revolutionary Guard, and try to get the people in the country to overthrow the regime. We need a regime change. If they get a nuclear weapon, the world is going to go into darkness,” Graham said.