politics, history and the war on terror
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Iran's Nukes. Who cares?  

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world." - Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, President of Iran

Iran wants to become a nuclear power and will not be deterred. Last weekend, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stated as much:

"We won't accept any new obligations….Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club….This is an irreversible path….That somebody demands that we give up the nuclear fuel cycle ... is an additional demand," Kharrazi said. He apparently was referring to demands by U.S. and European countries that Iran halt operations of a plant it inaugurated in March in Isfahan, central Iran, that processes uranium into gas and abort plans to build a heavy water reactor in Arak, another city in central Iran. "We can't accept such an additional demand, which is contrary to our legal and legitimate rights," he said. "No one in Iran can make a decision to deny the nation of something that is a source of pride."

Yesterday the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, issued a report on Iran's non-compliance with over two years of inspections (scroll down to the Implementation of Safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran section) and highlighted the two main open questions concerning Iran’s uranium enrichment program:

The first relates to the origin of the particles of high enriched and low enriched uranium contamination found at various locations related to uranium enrichment in Iran. The information provided by Iran in April 2004 — information requested since August 2003 — has not been sufficient to resolve this complex matter. Iran should make every effort to provide additional relevant information, particularly about the origin of the components in question, and explanations about the presence of a cluster of 36% uranium-235 particles at one location.

Second, we need to gain a fuller understanding of the extent of Iran’s efforts to import, manufacture and use centrifuges of the P-2 design. As mentioned in my report, the information provided by Iran with regard to the P-2 centrifuge programme, after repeated requests, has been changing and at times contradictory.

Clearly, this pattern of engagement on the part of Iran is less than satisfactory if it wishes to build confidence in the international community that Iran has indeed revealed the full extent of its nuclear programme. After a year of difficulties encountered by the inspectors, Iran needs to be proactive and fully transparent.

Uranium 235 is a primary material used in nuclear weapons, and this high percentage of U-235 would not be found in commercial nuclear reactors. The P2 centrifuges are of Pakistani origin and are used to enrich uranium to weapons grade quality (to create U-235). Evidence also exists that Iran has set up production facilities to enrich large amounts of uranium for weapons usage.

The IAEA has caught Iran red-handed in its attempts to create weapon-grade nuclear fuel. The reaction of board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been tepid, however. The board of governors does not recommend sanctions and barely seems concerned about Iran's attempts to join the nuclear club.

Diplomats here said they were near agreement Tuesday on the draft resolution to censure Iran rather than punish it for its lack of cooperation with the UN nuclear energy watchdog. The draft under consideration at the IAEA 35-nation board of governors meeting contains no direct threat of sanctions but does keep pressure on Iran to come clean on the aspects of its 20-year covert nuclear program that was discovered two years ago. The new draft was somewhat softer in tone than the original. The draft said the IAEA board "deplores... the fact that overall, Iran's cooperation has not been as full, timely and proactive as it should have been."

To his credit, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei has strongly advocated that the international community show resolve against states attempting to circumvent their treaty obligations on nuclear weapons proliferation. The 35-member Board of Governors, of which Iran is a member and sits in its own judgment, has a different agenda, one of appeasement and inaction.

The unfortunate results of the IAEA board of governors inaction remains to be seen, but there are two likely outcomes: Iran continues to pursue nuclear fuel processing until they build a bomb, or a government opposed to Iran's possession of nuclear weapons (such as the US or Israel) will take unilateral action to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, just as Israel attacked Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Israel estimates Iran will possess nuclear capabilities in 18 months and is already considering a preemptive attack, as Iran has threatened to use nukes against Israel if they are obtained. The United States most likely has contingency plans as well. An attack on Iran's nuclear capabilities would create a firestorm and would most likely involve a long-term conflict with Iran.

The IAEA board of governors is indicative of most international organizations; long on process, proceedings and finding, short on resolve and action. By not acting to stem the threat early on with all means available, solutions are postponed, decisions become impossible and rogue regimes exploit the weakness and desire for consensus in the international community. We saw this same process play out in Iraq, with Saddam waiting for the UN to fracture and lift sanctions. Had the international community held fast and demanded Iraq abide by the 17 UN resolutions, a conflict may have been avoided. As it is not acceptable for Iran to possess nuclear weapons, the likely outcome is unilateral military intervention against Iran.

Posted by bill roggio @ 6:08 AM