Diplomats are bracing themselves for the release of a report documenting fresh insight into Iran's suspected nuclear weapons drive. The report has significance in the wake of growing speculation of a possible attack on the Islamic republic .
Previous reports on Iran's nuclear program have centred on its production of fissile (uranium and plutonium) materials. These materials can be used for peaceful means such as energy generation. Iran has always denied that it is building nuclear weapons and insists its nuclear drive is purely for peaceful purposes.
However the new report will focus on Iranian efforts to place radioactive material into a warhead and the development of missiles capable of carrying them to a target. In recent weeks, with the focus on Libya now over since Col Gadaffi's capture and killing, attention is drawn back to Iran. The anxiously-awaited report is bound to further unsettle nerves in Tel Aviv and Washington. The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not be warmly welcomed in Russia and China however. Moscow has pressed for a delay and Beijing has asked for it to be scrapped altogether.
On Tuesday last week, Israel successfully test-fired a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead which could strike Iran - such is the concern in Tel Aviv.
Barack Obama has no real thirst to invade Iran, particularly in the run-up to next year's Presidential elections but pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lobbying Western forces to take action against Iran. It is hoped the information in the eagerly-awaited report would encourage the UN to take out further sanctions against Iran.
AFP reports, there have already been four rounds of sanctions on the Islamic republic, but Russia and China continue to take a soft approach on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and see no need to sanction further action on Tehran.
Patience, all the while is wearing thin in Israel; President Shimon Peres believes Israel is closer to military options than diplomatic resolutions.
The US plans to bolster its military presence in the Persian Gulf in the wake of its troop withdrawal from Iraq, due to be completed by the end of this year. But even here speculation that Iran may be tempted to fill the void and even antagonise Saudi Arabia (not to mention Israel). George Friedman, chief of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, says:
The Iranians have made it very clear that they regard the American withdrawal as a vacuum and that they intend to fill the vacuum. We have seen some substantial tension emerge between Saudi Arabia and Iran, including of course the story that Iranian operatives were planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States and destroy the Saudi Embassy.
The US will still maintain its 23,000 troops in Kuwait and with the threat and instability in the Middle East region its likely US deployment will be sustained for some time.
The IAEA assessment is due for release on Tuesday or Wednesday.