Middle East firestorm: Worsening crisis may soon engulf region in ‘unthinkable’ nightmare

November 28, 2011 – TEHRAN – An explosion rocked the western Iranian city of Isfahan on Monday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, adding that the blast was heard in several parts of the city. The reported incident occurred about two weeks after Gen. Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed together with 20 other Guard members Nov. 12 at a military site outside Bidganeh village, 40 kilometers southwest of Tehran. The Revolutionary Guard said the accidental explosion occurred while military personnel were transporting munitions. It should be noted that Iran operates a uranium conversion plant near Isfahan, one with an important function in the chain of Iran’s nuclear program. It first went into operation in 2004, taking uranium from mines and producing uranium fluoride gas, which then feeds the centrifuges that enrich the uranium. Since 2004, thousands of kilograms of uranium flouride gas were stockpiled at Isfahan and subsequently sent to the enrichment plant in Natanz. Earlier Monday, a top Israeli security official said that the recent explosion that rocked an Iranian missile base near Tehran could delay or stop further Iranian surface-to-surface missile development. Iranian Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi also said Israel would be attacked with 150,000 missiles if it launches any military action against the Islamic Republic, the Iran Independent News Service reported Sunday.  –Haaretz 
Three months to act to prevent nuclear war? According to the briefing given to a closed meeting of Jewish leaders in New York, on Nov. 13, the window of opportunity for stopping Iran attaining a nuclear weapon is closing fast, debkafile’s sources report. It will shut down altogether after late March 2012. The intelligence reaching U.S. President Barak Obama is that by April, Iran will already have five nuclear bombs or warheads and military action then would generate a dangerous level of radioactive contamination across the Gulf region, the main source of the world’s energy. Sunday, too, President Barack Obama said the sanctions against Iran had taken an “enormous bite” out of its economy. He also said that the “US is united with Russian and Chinese leaders in ensuring Iran does not develop an atomic weapon and unleash an arms race across the Middle East.” He spoke after talking to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii about the new evidence submitted by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran was engaged in clandestine efforts to build a bomb. The West suspects Iran is aiming at developing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies. He said both shared the goal of keeping a bomb out of Iran’s hands. As to sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference that sanctions against Iran had been exhausted and “now the problem should be solved through diplomatic channels.” –Debka 
Iran adds three more submarines to fleet: Iranian state TV says the country has added three more domestically-built submarines to its naval fleet. The Sunday report said the vessels were delivered to the Iranian navy in southern port of Bandar Abbas. It said the submarines were from the Ghadir class, of which Iran already has four. This class of submarine can fire missiles and torpedoes and operate in the Gulf’s shallow waters. The move is seen as part of Iran’s effort to upgrade its defense capabilities amid escalating tension over its nuclear program.  –AFP
Government of key U.S. Arab ally collapses:  Kuwait’s cabinet has resigned after protesters and opposition deputies demanded that the prime minister step down over allegations of corruption, state-run television has reported. “The prime minister [Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah] has submitted his resignation to the emir,” Kuwait TV said, without specifying whether it had been accepted. Earlier, opposition member Khaled al-Sultan said the cabinets’ resignation was accepted amid a bitter political dispute between the prime minister and opposition MPs. “We are waiting for the appointment of a new prime minister before parliament is dissolved in order to be assured of fair elections,” the Sultan told reporters outside parliament. Parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi said he had not been informed about dissolution of parliament. If it is confirmed that Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, has accepted the resignations, he may then also dissolve parliament before setting a date for new elections. –Al Jazeera
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