Iran Advances Towards Nuclear Weapons

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 8 months ago

The Obama administration is advancing a strategy of assurances of regime stability (versus regime change) and security guarantees as an incentive for jettisoning its steady but deliberate advances towards becoming a nuclear state.  Such an approach is founded upon the axiom that the Iranian Mullahs are seeking security and stability rather than regional or world hegemony.  But this is contrary to their stated views.

“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” (Khomeini, pg. 16, The Iranian Time Bomb).

So unhindered in their pursuit of nuclear weapons by either the past or the current administrations (since they both have bought into the “grand bargain” approach to Iran), the Iranian scientists and engineers under the thumb of the Mullahs have advanced their plans for nuclear weapons to the point that even the U.N. (IAEA) is now a bit surprised at their progress.

Iran has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb, United Nations officials acknowledged on Thursday.

In a development that comes as the Obama administration is drawing up its policy on negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, UN officials said Iran had produced more nuclear material than previously thought.

They said Iran had accumulated more than one tonne of low enriched uranium hexafluoride at a facility in Natanz.

If such a quantity were further enriched it could produce more than 20kg of fissile material – enough for a bomb.

“It appears that Iran has walked right up to the threshold of having enough low enriched uranium to provide enough raw material for a single bomb,” said Peter Zimmerman, a former chief scientist of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

The new figures come in a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, released on Thursday. This revealed that Iran’s production of low enriched uranium had previously been underestimated.

When the agency carried out an annual stocktaking of Natanz in mid-November Iran had produced 839kg of low enriched uranium hexafluoride – more than 200kg more than previously thought. Tehran produced an additional 171kg by the end of January.

“It’s sure certain that if they didn’t have it [enough] when the IAEA took these measurements, they will have it in a matter of weeks,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Iran’s success in reaching such a “breakout capacity” – a stage that would allow it to produce enough fissile material for a bomb in a matter of months – crosses a “red line” that for years Israel has said it would not accept.

While the prose is more discriminating, the headline is completely, factually incorrect.  The Financial Times article is headlined “Iran Holds Enough Uranium for Bomb.”  The Telegraph headline reads about the same.  It’s important to understand what this does – and doesn’t – mean.

The process begins with Uranium ore, which is then milled into a concentrate called “yellowcake” (U3O8).  This is then converted to Uranium Hexafluoride gas (UF6) before enrichment.  Further chemical processing converts this to UO2, and this is apparently where the Iranians are in the process.  “Low enriched Uranium.”  This means on the order of 4-5% U-235, not the 90% or greater U-235 enrichment needed for nuclear weapons.  They still have work to do.

This realistic assessment doesn’t ameliorate the threat that Iran poses, but it does mean that there is still time to prevent a nuclear Iran.  Iran needs to enrich the Uranium to weapons grade, and to date there is no indication that they have done so.

But there is every indication that they intend to do so.  The question is whether the will exists to prevent the existence of a nuclear Iran.  A survey of the scene shows that Iran can now deploy UAVs (or drones), is still assisting the Taliban, and doesn’t want any part of the grand bargain.

The Obama administration is moving full-speed ahead to prepare for U.S.-Iran talks. The reaction from Iran, though, has not been so fawning.  In the wake of President Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric holding open the possibility of talks with the United States should Obama acquiesce to Tehran’s demands on its nuclear program, apologies, and abandonment of Israel, Jomhouri-ye Eslami editorialized that, with regard to such fundamental issues as talks with Washington, it was not Ahmadinejad’s decision to make. After all, in Iran, the president is about style and the Supreme Leader about substance. The newspaper, close to the intelligence ministry and security agencies, quoted the Supreme Leader’s speech at Yazd: “Relations with the U.S. have for the time being no benefit to the Iranian nation and most certainly on the day that relations with America are beneficial for the nation, I’ll be the first person to recognize it.”

It’s important to clarify what the most recent revelations from the IAEA mean.  It’s also important to clarify where the U.S. stands with respect to a nuclear Iran.  While the U.S. investigates its policy,  the advancement of Iran proceeds apace to become nuclear.




You are currently reading "Iran Advances Towards Nuclear Weapons", entry #2195 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iran,Nuclear,Obama Administration and was published February 20th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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