This coming weekend, US and Israeli intelligence eyes will be straining for a sight of a landmark event taking place in Pyongyang: A large Iranian delegation arriving May 26 on a shopping expedition for…nuclear bombs.
Brig. Gen. Ali-Reza Jannati of the Iranian air force will be heading the largest military delegation his government has ever sent to North Korea, including also a group of nuclear arms industry officials.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's exclusive US and Israeli military and intelligence sources, Tehran opened the bidding in two months of secret preliminary bargaining with an offer of $1 billion per nuke.
The high points covered by those talks and ready now for the final rounds are revealed here as follows:
1. Iran offered $4 billion for four complete nuclear bombs in operational condition. North Korea agreed to the deal in principle but not the price, and countered with an offer of just two operational nuclear bombs at $2 billion apiece
Western intelligence officials expect Iran to raise its bid to $5 billion for four bombs and North Korea to settle on that price for only three bombs.
2. Our intelligence sources open an astonishing window on the tensions North Korea ramped up recently with the US, Japan and South Korea, starting with the deployment in February of Masudan ballistic missiles in launch mode on its eastern coast, with threats to target the western United States.
It is now believed in Washington and Jerusalem that this show of muscle was part of Pyongyang’s sales pitch for Tehran. The Iranians demanded to see nuclear bombs operational and installed on missiles before taking the negotiations forward and clinching the deal.
Doubling up on the effort for an impressive nuclear arsenal
So why does Iran need the North Korean warheads if it already possesses the technology, materials, manpower and knowledge for assembling bombs on its own?
Speculation in US and Israeli intelligence experts monitoring the Iranian nuclear program is divided between three schools of thought:
a) One view is that the Iranian nuclear industry has run into technological problems which are holding up its timetable for assembling a bomb. Teheran suspects the Israeli Mossad or American CIA of planting flawed materials or components into its nuclear program for sabotaging its computer systems, so that when the bomb is assembled, it won’t work.
b) Another school of thought suspects Iran is cheating again. The Obama administration insists US intelligence is capable of pinning down the moment when Iran starts building a nuclear bomb, so that the US can exercise its military option.
But how would Washington’s calculus work if that moment never came, because Iran had gained possession of a complete nuke without going through the process of building one?
c). A third view holds that Ayatollah Khamenei plans to use the purchases from North Korea to fast-forward Iran’s progress toward an impressive nuclear arsenal.
Iran would manufacture two or three nuclear bombs itself and procure three or four more from Pyongyang, ending up with six or seven devices in short order.
A nuclear arsenal on this scale would place Iran on a much more elevated strategic footing than just a couple of nukes.