Looks like we’re scheduled to endure another round of hype about Iran’s nuclear program. David Sanger writes in today’s New York Times about an imminent IAEA report.
International nuclear inspectors will soon report that Iran has installed hundreds of new centrifuges in recent months and may also be speeding up production of nuclear fuel while negotiations with the United States and its allies have ground to a near halt, according to diplomats and experts briefed on the findings.
Almost all of the new equipment is being installed in a deep underground site on a military base near Qum that is considered virtually invulnerable to military attack. It would suggest that a boast by senior Iranian leaders late last month — that the country had added upward of 1,000 new machines to its installation despite Western sabotage — may be true.
The report will also indicate, according to the officials familiar with its contents, that Iran is increasingly focused on enriching uranium to a level of 20 percent — a purity that it says it needs for a specialty nuclear reactor that it insists is used only for medical purposes, but that outside experts say gets it most of the way to the level needed to produce a workable nuclear bomb. The report does not attempt to address the question of whether Iran has made a decision to build a nuclear weapon; American intelligence officials believe it has not, and Iran insists it wants to use nuclear power for peaceful ends.
I suppose there’s some solace to be taken in the highlighted portion. After hearing about it from readers, the Times reports on Iran now stress that the consensus of the US intelligence community states that they have not determined whether or not to build a nuclear weapon, nor have they restarted their nuclear program. This so rarely gets highlighted as part of the discussion around Iran that it’s a kind of success that it made its way into the bottom of paragraph number 3.
Sanger also indicates that it would take years to develop a weapon from a standing start like this. But this will not matter to the lords of saber-rattling, who we will hear from over the next couple months, against the backdrop of the US Presidential election. Chatter in Israel has already picked up about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, which exist outside of whether they have an active nuclear weapons program. And this IAEA report will fuel that speculation.
Diplomatic talks between Iran and Western powers have basically ended. The sanctions are in place and they continue to constrict the Iranian economy. Neoconservatives who view every potential international crisis as an opportunity for more bomb-dropping will certainly put together the stalled talks and this report as a signal that Israel must strike and that the US must back them. We’re closing in on some very dangerous territory.