Monday, May 14, 2007

Atomic Agency Concludes Iran Is Stepping Up Nuclear Work


Well this news alert, which was just posted on The New York Times website, is certainly bad news:



Inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran appears to have solved most of its technological problems and is now beginning to enrich uranium on a far larger scale than before, according to the agency’s top officials.


In a short-notice inspection of Iran’s operations in the main nuclear facility at Natanz on Sunday, conducted in advance of a report to the United Nations Security Council due early next week, the inspectors found that Iranian engineers were already using roughly 1,300 centrifuges and were producing fuel suitable for nuclear reactors, according to diplomats and nuclear experts here.



Until recently, the Iranians were having difficulty keeping the delicate centrifuges spinning at the tremendous speeds necessary to make nuclear fuel and were often running them empty or not at all.



Now, those roadblocks appear to have been surmounted. “We believe they pretty much have the knowledge about how to enrich,” said Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the energy agency, who clashed with the Bush administration four years ago when he declared that there was no evidence that Iraq had resumed its nuclear program. “From now on, it is simply a question of perfecting that knowledge. People will not like to hear it, but that’s a fact.”


Read it all. The entire article puts this development in context--Iran is likely still years away from developing nuclear weapons--but this is still quite disturbing. Why should we be concerned with a nuclear Iran--even apart from genuine concerns about what Iran would do with nuclear weapons (particularly in light of the Iranian Presidents remarks about Israel), there is a near certainty that Iran's rivals in the region--such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia--would feel compelled to developed their own nuclear weapons. Given the instability in the region this would be a very dangerous development indeed.

Sadly, there are very few good options. Iran's relatively strong military and the size of its nuclear program (including how well dispersed it appears to be) make most military options problematic. Sadly. most diplomatic options seem to have failed.

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