As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Secret Enrichment Facility Discovered In Iran

A day after passing a UN resolution to move toward total nuclear disarmament, Barack Obama joined Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown to disclose the existence of a secret Iranian site used to enrich low-grade uranium. Iran has acknowledged the site, but “The (IAEA) also understands from Iran that no nuclear material has been introduced into the facility." Obama had this to say:

Appearing before reporters in Pittsburgh, Mr. Obama said that the Iranian nuclear program “represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime.” President Nicholas Sarkozy of France, appearing beside Mr. Obama, said that Iran had a deadline of two months to comply with international demands or face increased sanctions.

“The level of deception by the Iranian government, and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments, will shock and anger the entire international community,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain said, standing on the other side of Mr. Obama. “The international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand.”

It sounds like US intelligence had been monitoring the facility, near the holy city of Qom, for years, but recently had their cover broken, which led Iran to disclose the existence of the plant to the IAEA. Obama said today that "the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program," although I'm wondering about the exact meaning of that remark, given the claim that no enriched uranium exists there, which American officials confirm (they say it could be ready by next year).

This comes right before the October 1 meeting between Iran and Western powers, and is sure to add some intensity to them.

This latest disclosure, along with the stolen election and state-sponsored repression of dissent, is turning Iran into a pariah regime, like North Korea.

Iran has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to learn how to produce enriched uranium to fuel the reactors it is building. But the centrifuges it is using are an open-ended technology, such that if a nation can learn to use them to enrich uranium to 22 percent (enough for reactor fuel), there is no absolute bar to its learning to enrich to the 95 percent required for a nuclear bomb. Iran can therefore only allay suspicions that it actually wants a bomb by allowing thorough (and even surprise) U.N. inspections and by granting greater access to its scientists, engineers and equipment. Iran was caught doing undeclared weapons-related research in 2002, which is forbidden in the NPT, so it is on a kind of probation from the point of view of the West [...]

Iran may be counting on Russia and China to come to its aid. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad would be foolish to make that bet. Although Russia's prime minister (and de facto leader), Vladimir Putin, recently spoke out against further sanctions on Iran, President Dmitry Medvedev indicated in a CNN interview on Sunday that Russia's patience is not infinite. He said, "Iran must cooperate with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], this is an absolutely indubitable thing, if it wishes to develop its nuclear dimension, nuclear energy program." It is possible that Russia will be more flexible on the Iran sanctions issue now that President Obama has canceled plans to build missile shield facilities in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic, plans to which Moscow had vehemently objected. Likewise, Obama is seeking to blunt Iran's propaganda campaign concerning the nukes of the great powers by pushing for further nuclear disarmament in the U.S. and Russia.

From the standpoint of Obama, who may be on the verge of a reality check on Afghanistan, he cannot vow to end the existence of nuclear weapons in the world and then sit idle as Iran reveals yet another secret facility. The sanctions may only endanger the Iranian people; but so many are fed up with the ruling regime anyway that it could tip the balance.

Juan Cole has a photo essay contrasting Ahmadinejad's UN rhetoric with reality.

Labels: , , , , , ,