Tag Archives: Nuclear War


Once again I am presenting the research of one of my students. Given the current discussion break down with Iran over their nuclear program, I think you will find this paper interesting and relevant. In July 2013, RP presented me with his research, “The coming war between Israel and Iran.” His scholarly review is cause for pause. I have his permission to present his work on Dailyveritatis.







Purpose Statement:  This war will have significant impact on United States interests and further damage a precarious global economy.  So, answering the question of ‘when’ would help policymakers plan and prepare for the fallout from this coming conflict.

Background:  It is widely believed that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.  At the same time its leaders vow to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth (Weinblatt. 2012).  These facts create geopolitical tension in the region and could prompt Israel to conduct preemptive strikes to neutralize Iran’s emerging nuclear weapons capability.  The United States Government apparently believes it will have sufficient warning prior to Iran fielding a nuclear weapon.  Israeli leaders, who will be in the ‘cross-hairs’ of such a weapon, are not so sure they can afford to wait until there is unambiguous proof of an Iranian  nuclear weapon capability (Berman. 2013).

Israel is suspected of being behind covert operations, i.e. assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists (FNA. 2013) and cyber-attacks (Shariatipour. 2013); aimed at slowing down Iran’s progress.  Diplomatic pressure, mainly from the United States, is probably moderating Israel’s response.  But, it appears only a matter of time before Iran gets the ‘bomb’ and these two nations initiate conventional (or possibly nuclear) war.  The only question is when?

Analytical Differences

War is Illogical

Some believe Iran is merely spouting belligerent rhetoric to appease Islamic constituents and would never risk the consequences of a regional war by attacking Israel.  These analysts would answer the question of the timing of a potential war between Iran and Israel as it’s not likely for the foreseeable future.  These thinkers, discount the possibility of war, and would have our policymakers continue economic sanctions or new diplomatic initiatives to attempt to change Iran’s behavior.

The Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) published a report in 2004 entitled “Iran: Time for a new Approach” (Corsi. 2005, 240).  The report was produced by a task force headed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor under President Carter during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, and Robert Gates, deputy director of the CIA under President Regan during the Iran-Contra scandal (Corsi. 2005, 240).  It was interesting that the CFR, a ‘think tank’ and political mouth piece for U.S. Eastern banking establishment, chose two spokesmen with such dismal track records in dealing with Iran to draft policy advice.  They advocated new dialogue and engagement with Iran.

These political analysts may assume it is a logical path for Iran to pursue nuclear weapons to be on par with Israel, so as to provide a nuclear deterrent akin to the U.S.-U.S.S.R. mutual assured destruction (M.A.D.) standoff during the Cold War.  These analysts are attaching their own Western values and cognitive biases regarding state behavior.

According to Corsi, “thinking from a rational perspective, an Iran armed with nuclear weapons could announce that it would launch a nuclear strike on Israel should Iran ever come under military attack by the United States” (Corsi. 2005, 219).  “This would be Iran’s version of the “tripwire” theory the United States used to justify maintaining a small conventional army in Europe in the 1950s.  If the Soviets launched even a conventional attack against U.S. forces in West Germany…the United States would retaliate immediately with a massive nuclear strike” Corsi. 2005, 219).

This nuclear deterrent theory does not apply to Iran since its Islamic leaders do not have the same value regarding limiting loss of life.  Ayatollah Khomeini said “We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah.  For patriotism is another name for paganism.  I say let this land [Iran] burn.  I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world” (Evans. 2013, 91).  Some believe this statement indicates Iran plans to use nuclear weapons.

War is Inevitable

Those who have studied the ideological and religious beliefs of Iran’s leaders have a dramatically different assessment than those approaching this showdown from a balance-of-power or economic perspective.  These state actors (Iran and Israel) are not motivated by the same things that kept the U.S. and U.S.S.R from crossing the nuclear precipice during the Cold War.  The zealots who rule Iran believe they are destined to sow chaos as a precondition for their Islamic messiah to come back to Earth (Evans. 2006, Hitchcock. 2007).  At the same time, Israeli leaders believe the Iranians will attack once adequately armed, since it was prophesied in the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel (Rosenberg. 2006, Hitchcock. 2007).

Just as Hitler revealed his intention in Mein Kampf to commit genocide of the Jews in Germany, the religious leaders of Iran have clearly stated their intentions to exterminate the State of Israel (Corsi. 2005, 41-42).  Iran’s theocratic leaders believe they are destined to set the conditions for the return of the Islamic messiah (the Madji, aka the 12th Imam).  Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said “Our main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam” (Hitchcock. 2007, 34).  Official Iranian (Shiite) eschatology teaches that the Mahdi’s return is imminent and his appearance will be preceded by an apocalypse (Hitchcock. 2007).

Israeli religious leaders believe they will win this war.  The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel predicted a future war in which an alliance of nations that includes Persia (Iran) and Magog (Russia) would suffer a dramatic defeat when they come against Israel (Ezekiel 38).

Analysis of the religious and ideological motivations of both sides leads to only one conclusion – war is inevitable.  Israel will likely conduct a preemptive strike and initiate war when it perceives Iran is about to field a nuclear weapon.  So, the timing of this war is predicated upon how far along Iran is with its nuclear weapon program.

This group of thinkers would advocate U.S. policymakers to prepare for the fallout.


The second line of analytical thought is correct and war is inevitable.  It is just a matter of timing.  Israel will probably initiate war when it perceives Iran is nearly completed building a nuclear weapon (Berman. 2013).  So, the matter of answering the research question (When will Iran and Israel go to war?) hinges on answering a related question: Where is Iran on its timeline to field a nuclear weapon?


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the U. N. General Assembly in 2012 declaring Israel’s ‘Red Line’ on Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program

On September 27, 2012, Netanyahu “faced an unsympathetic audience as he took the podium at the UN General Assembly in New York City.  Holding up a simple drawing, the prime minister drew a red line near the top of the depiction of a nuclear bomb.  He admonished those present, “The red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.  I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down.”  He further warned, “Nothing could imperil the world more than a nuclear-armed Iran” (Evans. 2013, 209).

Review of the Literature

A Historical Overview of Sanctions on Iran and Iran’s Nuclear Program

Aghazadeh stated that U.S. unilateral sanctions were not “successful in changing Iran’s politics or behavior against the U.S. and the international community” (Aghazadeh. 2013, 142).   However, Aghazadeh asserted that the U.S. was able to successfully convince “other countries to impose multilateral sanctions due to Iran’s nuclear program” which resulted in Iran suffering from internal conflicts and economic problems (Aghazadeh. 2013, 142).

Iran responded to international sanctions by declaring 8 April a National Day of Nuclear Technology (Aghazadeh. 2013, 150) and vowed not to stop its nuclear program. On the first National Day of Nuclear Technology in 2007, during a ceremony at the Natanz nuclear site, President Ahmadinejad said “Several world powers are using their influence to stop Iranian progress.  They should know that the great Iranian nation will not allow them to do so” (Aghazadeh. 2013, 150).

This author provided some specifics regarding the sanctions and Iranian rhetoric regarding its nuclear program. However, the author provided no data about the current state of the Iranian nuclear program or any discussion regarding the likelihood of potential military intervention by Israel (or the U.S.).

Rumors of War

Allin asserted Israel is inclined to conduct preemptive strikes (Allin. 2012, 211).

This assessment is based on history.  In 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive war against Egypt and Syria (Allin.2012).  In 1981, Israeli airstrikes destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor (Allin. 2012, 211).  Again, in 2007, the Israelis destroyed another nuclear facility in Syria (Allin. 2012, 211).

Allin also asserted that preemptive strikes could be counter-productive and initiate endless war (Allin. 2012, 212).   Although its nuclear program might be “set back by a couple of years, Iran could redouble its efforts and very likely succeed” in building the ‘bomb’ (Allin. 2012, 212).   Allin said it would be like ‘mowing the lawn.’ “Just as the grass will grow again, so will the nuclear program; Israel will just have to mow again. And as Iran’s reconstitution effort goes underground and its defenses are enhanced, Israel’s intelligence and military capabilities will have to keep pace” (Allin. 2012, 212).

Allin claimed Israel’s political leadership believes a “point of no return” in the Iranian nuclear weapons program will be “when sufficient enrichment centrifuges can be installed at a site near Qom and protected under a mountain” (Allin. 2012, 216).

Allin quoted Mark Fitzpatrick, a non-proliferation expert, who stated that “A pre-emptive strike at a time when Iran is not on the verge of crossing the threshold and might still be dissuaded from doing so would surely create an Iranian determination to build nuclear weapons, and this time in secret. This problem of counter-productivity would no longer prevail if Iran had already decided to cross the line” (Allin. 2012, 217).

Despite the potential risk of preemptive strikes, Allin asserted that the Netanyahu government “seems ideologically committed to the view” that “engagement cannot possibly work, because Arab hostility is implacable” (Allin. 2012, 219).

This article is ‘spot on’ regarding Israeli intentions (Allin. 2012, 211).  Allin provided a significant clue in assessing when this war may begin; “when sufficient enrichment centrifuges can be installed at a site near Qom, and protected under a mountain” (Allin. 2012, 216).  However, Allin’s subject matter expert, Mark Fitzpatrick, was off base when he implied that the Iranian nuclear program was currently being conducted in the open and they are not currently pursuing a nuclear weapon capability (Allin. 2012, 217).  However, he also said the potential counter-productivity of preemption would no longer be the paramount issue once Iran ‘crossed the line’ toward its pursuit of nuclear weapons (Allin. 2012, 217).

Obama’s Dilemma: Iran, Israel and the Rumors of War.

Allin and Simon asserted that Iran is continuing to progress towards a nuclear-weapons capability (Allin and Simon. 2011, 17).  They also argued that “This progress raised a palpable prospect of war” and there was “every reason to worry that, in the coming years, a fearful Israel will conclude that it is cornered, with no choice but to launch a preventive war aimed at crippling Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure and removing – or at least forestalling – what many Israelis consider a threat to the Jewish state’s very existence” (Allin and Simon. 2011, 17).

The authors asserted that “War, if it comes, will be a tragic consequence of Iran’s recklessness and Israel’s fears. But war would also be, under most scenarios we can envision, a tragic mistake” (Allin and Simon. 2011, 35).  They argue that the likely damage to U.S. and Israeli interests from “an Israeli attack, even if operationally successful, would probably outweigh the benefits” (Allin and Simon. 2011, 35).   The authors go on to provide foreign policy recommendations for the Obama Administration to attempt to contain Iran and Israel (Allin and Simon. 2011, 37).

Allin and Simon concluded by stating that “The compressed coil of disaster linking Iran, Israel and the United States is not the only problem facing the Obama administration, and it may not even be its worst problem. But Iran’s defiance and Israel’s panic are the fuses for a war that could destroy all of Obama’s other ambitions.” (Allin and Simon. 2011, 40).

While these authors provided some interesting assessments regarding the political, economic and national security consequences of using the military option in dealing with Iran, they did not discuss the specific timing of this potential conflict or any details about the current status of Iran’s nuclear program.

 The Path to War

 Calabresi, Crowley, and Newton-Small asserted that President Obama publicly committed to war to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon to persuade Israeli President Netanyahu not to conduct unilateral preemptive strikes (Calabresi, Crowley, and Newton-Small. 2013).  The authors cited a speech on March 4, 2012, delivered to members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in which Obama said “I will not hesitate to use force when necessary to defend United States and its interests” (Calabresi, Crowley, and Newton-Small. 2013).  The authors argue that Obama has worked to “slow or derail” the Iranian nuclear program “through a combination of diplomacy, sanctions and covert action (cyber attacks)” and assert that as of March 2013 he “succeeded in pushing the timeline for war back at least 12 months” (Calabresi, Crowley, and Newton-Small. 2013).

Despite setbacks, these authors reported that Iran continues to expand its nuclear program and enhance defenses its nuclear sites.  Iran erected new perimeter fences around its underground uranium enrichment plant at Qom (Calabresi, Crowley, and Newton-Small. 2013).  The authors cited a U.S. think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, which said “the earliest Iran could get the Bomb is mid-2014” (Calabresi, Crowley, and Newton-Small. 2013).

If the assessment of these authors is correct, war with Iran will not occur until at least the spring of 2014.  The activity at Qom is of interest.  This is the same the site Allin indicated could trigger Israeli strikes “when sufficient enrichment centrifuges” are installed and “protected under a mountain” (Allin. 2012, 216).  Apparently Israeli munitions cannot penetrate this site.

Iran and Israel: The Avoidable War.

Parsi asserted that “even though Iran and Israel are currently entangled in a strategic rivalry”…”a climactic military confrontation between the two is far from inevitable” (PParsi. 2007, 79).   While the author devoted much of the article discussing Iran’s proxy war with Israel through Hezbollah in Lebanon, the looming possibility of a direct confrontation between these two nations was the main theme.  The author advocated continued efforts towards diplomatic negotiations with Iran to avoid war and suggested “a policy of regional integration” (PParsi. 2007, 85).  Mid-way through the article, the author cited Israel’s deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, who said in 2006 that “War with Iran is inevitable,” it was not a question of if, but when (PParsi. 2007, 81).

This article provided no insights into the likely timing of war between Iran and Israel.  The author apparently is under the delusion it can be avoided.  Ephraim Sneh’s assessment is correct.

 War now? Or war later?

Petrou asserted that the prospect of war between Israel and Iran is very real (Petrou. 2012).  The author cited the October 2012 speech of Israeli President Netanyahu at the United Nations, in which Netanyahu said Iran was “on track to build an atomic bomb by the summer of 2013” (Petrou. 2012).  Petrou dismissed Netanyahu’s alarmist tone but did say “Whether Iran is six months or six years away from being able to produce a bomb, it is closer than it has even been.  Irrespective of (President) Obama’s reluctance to issue ultimatums, Israel’s “red line” on Iran is fast approaching” (Petrou, 2012).

According to Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Program at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London (also cited by Allin. 2012); “The debate in Israel is not between war and peace.  It’s between war now and war later, war unilaterally or war with the United States (support)” (Petrou, 2012).

Literature Review Summary          

Several important clues regarding the likely timing of the war between Israel and Iran were revealed during the review of these six literature sources.   Allin claimed Israel’s political leadership believes a “point of no return” in the Iranian nuclear weapons program will be “when sufficient enrichment centrifuges can be installed at a site near Qom, and protected under a mountain” (Allin. 2012, 216).  Calabresi, Crowley, and Newton-Small indicated that as of March 2013 the war was at least 12 months away; mid-2014 (Calabresi, Crowley, and Newton-Small. 2013).    Petrou reported that as of October 2012 Israeli President Netanyahu stated Iran was “on track to build an atomic bomb by the summer of 2013” (Petrou. 2012).  While these sources provided important clues, more research needed to be conducted to determine the criteria for Israeli assessment of how close Iran is to its “red line.”

Methodology and Research Strategy

 Sources were sought which could shed light on Israeli criteria for determining how close Iran was to producing a nuclear weapon.  Scientific evidence and the assessment of the Israeli government was deemed most important in determining how close Israel was to launching a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Analysis and Findings

Regarding Allin’s claimed “point of no return” “when sufficient enrichment centrifuges can be installed at a site near Qom, and protected under a mountain” (Allin. 2012, 216); members of the Federation of American Scientists reported the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant is built in a mountain near the holy city of Qom (Barzashka and Oelrich. 2010).  Fordow was designed to house 3000 centrifuges (Barzashka and Oelrich. 2010).  In 2010, these scientists estimated it would take over three years to enrich enough uranium at Fordow for an atomic bomb (Barzashka and Oelrich. 2010).  Note: Three years have passed.  And this is not Iran’s only enrichment plant.

According to Kerr, “obtaining fissile material is widely regarded as the most difficult task in building nuclear weapons” (Kerr. 2012).  He claimed that as of August 2012, Iran had produced an amount of low-enriched uranium (LEU) containing up to five percent uranium-235 which, if further enriched, could theoretically produce enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for “several nuclear weapons” (Kerr. 2012).  He added that Iran had also produced LEU containing up to 20 percent uranium-235, but, as of August 2012, “this amount was not sufficient to yield a sufficient amount of weapons-grade HEU for a weapon” (Kerr. 2012).

According to Kerr, “Iran began enriching uranium in the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant in December 2011” (Kerr. 2012) and as of August 12, 2012, Iran had “enriched approximately 65 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 20 percent uranium-235 in the facility” using 696 centrifuges (Kerr. 2012).  Kerr also reported that “as of mid-May 2012, Tehran had used the Natanz commercial facility and the Fordow facility to produce a total of 189.4 kilograms” of uranium enriched up to 20 percent uranium-235 (Kerr. 2012).  Some of this material was reportedly used for fuel in research reactors.  Kerr asserted Iran would need approximately 215 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride containing 20 percent uranium-235 in order to produce approximately 27.8 kilograms of uranium containing 90 percent uranium-235, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) considers to be the minimum sufficient amount of weapons-grade HEU for a nuclear weapon (Kerr. 2012).

According to Evans, citing reports from the IAEA, nearly 3,000 centrifuges are housed at the Qom site, a holy city where the Islamic messiah (Madji) is supposed to reappear (Evans. 2013, 243).  Evans indicated the Iranians could have enough processed uranium for a nuclear weapon in 2013, at which time they will have reached Netanyahu’s “red line” (Evans, 2013, 243-244).   Evans also provided an IAEA report from November 2012 which stated Iran would have enough 20 percent enriched uranium to “rapidly produce fissile material” for two nuclear weapons by “late 2013 or early 2014” (Evans. 2013, 265).  The IAEA report also revealed Iran would begin operating a reactor in 2014 capable of producing enough weapons-grade plutonium for two warheads per year (Corsi. 2013, 265).

Netanyahu was quoted in a December 11, 2012 press report as saying “I made it clear that once Iran crosses that enrichment threshold, the chances of us effectively stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program would be reduced dramatically.  Iran is…closer to crossing this line and there is no doubt that this will be a major challenge that will have to be addressed next year (in 2013)” (Evans. 2013).

Recent press reporting indicates Netanyahu revised his earlier assessment (Petrou. 2013) and as of July 18, 2013, he believed Iran was 120-days away from nuclear weapons capability (i.e. from Summer 2013 to November 2013) (PRLog. 2013).  Netanyahu said Iran is just 60 kilograms short of crossing his “red line” (PRLog. 2013).  (notation from Dr. Brandt Smith) Netanyahu defined his “red line” as being in possession of 250 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium (PRLog. 2013).  This is enough material for a nuclear weapon (PRLog. 2013).  Iran reportedly currently has 9,300 centrifuges operational at the Natanz enrichment facility and 2,800 centrifuges at their Fordow enrichment facility (aka Qom) (PRLog. 2013).  Netanyahu said in June 2013 Iran possessed 190 kilograms and they now have 200 kilograms (PRLog. 2013).   At the current pace of approximately 11.5 kilograms per month, Iran is four months away for having enough enriched uranium to manufacture a nuclear weapon (PRLog. 2013).   If Israeli leadership believes this assessment is correct, a war with Iran could be initiated by November 2013 (PRLog. 2013).


When will Iran and Israel go to war?  Based on recent scientific assessments and statements of Israeli’s senior leadership, war could be initiated by November 2013.  This is when the Israelis apparently believe Iran will have sufficient fuel to build a nuclear weapon.  History strongly predicts Israel will conduct preemptive strike to attempt to neutralize Iran’s nuclear program.      If what has been in Israel’s history, then we should have no doubt a preemptive strike is imminent.

However, unlike the 1981 or 2007 strikes on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear facilities, targeting Iran’s nuclear program will be much more difficult.  Iran designed its nuclear program to avoid a similar fate as Iraq or Syria by dispersing its redundant sites.  Some are in hardened facilities (like Qom) and it is believed they have additional undiscovered facilities.  So, any Israeli strike would likely initiate an ongoing conflict to “mow the grass” as Iran reconstitutes (Allin. 2012).

The economic and geopolitical impact of a sustained war in the Middle East would be significant.  If the predictions of the prophet Ezekiel play out, Russia (Magog) and other nations will be drawn into this devastating conflict (Ezekiel 38) (Rosenberg, 2006, 162-170).  There is no indication from Ezekiel that the United States intervenes.  Israel will likely conduct unilateral action to defend itself.  However, U.S. policymakers should prepare now for the economic implications of the coming war in the Middle East.


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Ezekiel 38.  The Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 38 (The War of Magog), The Holy Bible, King James Version, World Publishers, Iowa Falls, Iowa.

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Shariatipour, Alireza (2013).  US and Israel created the Stuxnet computer virus to sabotage    Iran’s nuclear energy program, Tehran Chronicle, July 11, 2013.     (http://tehranchronicle.com/us-and-israel-created-the-stuxnet-computer-virus-to-sabotage-irans-nuclear-energy-program-iran-latest-news/1743/) (website accessed July 17, 2013).

Weinblatt, Charles (2012). Iran Vows to Eliminate Israel – Leader Denies Holocaust,   Examiner, September 27, 2012. (http://www.examiner.com/article/iran-vows-to-eliminate-israel-leader-denies-holocaust) (website accessed July 17, 2013).