If you do not know the difference between uranium metal and uranium oxide, you never heard of “Green Salt” until today, and you have been more interested in Pittsburgh vs. Seattle than Tehran vs. Vienna, here’s your chance to catch up on the latest developments in the Iranian nuclear showdown.
We provide answers (with extensive quotes from the confidential IAEA report) to three key questions: What did the IAEA report say that was new, what does reporting to the Security Council mean, and what happens next?
1. What new evidence was in the January 31 IAEA confidential report on Iran?
Iran has taken some measures to attempt to assure the IAEA that it is in compliance with its safeguards agreement. Yet key issues remain unresolved, including explanation of particles of enriched uranium found on centrifuges, IAEA access to critical sites and scientists, and the interesting document detailing how to turn uranium into a metal. This later procedure has no role in fuel production; uranium in metal form is only used in nuclear weapons
The updated brief by the Deputy Director General for Safeguards says:
Much of this language was reported in the November 2005 IAEA Report on outstanding questions on the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities. New to the latest report is a direct reference to a 15-page document and the critical phrase, “…related to the fabrication of nuclear weapon components.” (Read More)
“Iran has shown the Agency more than 60 documents said to have been drawings, specifications and supporting documentation handed over by the intermediaries, many of which are dated from the early- to mid-1980’s. Among these was a 15-page document describing the procedures for the reduction of UF6 to metal in small quantities, and the casting of enriched and depleted uranium metal into hemispheres, related to the fabrication of nuclear weapon components. It did not, however, include dimensions or other specifications for machined pieces for such components. According to Iran, this document had been provided on the initiative of the network, and not at the request of the AEOI. Iran has declined the Agency’s request to provide the Agency with a copy of the document, but did permit the Agency during its visit in January 2006 to examine the document again and to place it under Agency seal.”
Ahmadinejad's threat to external security and internal freedoms is bringing forth an opposition coalition that sees more clearly the dangers of confrontation with the West. A nimble U.S. policy, one that plots a strategy beyond the next Security Council vote, can help these forces inside Iran succeed.
Frédéric Grare presented his paper, “Pakistan: The Resurgence of Baluch Nationalism,” (published by the Carnegie Endowment in January 2006) which analyzes the conflict in Baluchistan, a Pakistani province straddling Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan
In a candid January 18 press conference, Carnegie Vice-President George Perkovich and Visiting Scholar Pierre Goldschmidt discussed the current Iran crisis with reporters. Goldschmidt said he is urging officials to take a generic proactive approach that could solve other potential or actual cases of noncompliance:
“The UN Security Council should adopt a generic resolution saying that when the IAEA has found a country to be in noncompliance and if the IAEA requests more verification authority, the UN Security Council would immediately, under a Chapter 7 resolution, provide this additional authority.”
Unfortunately, the “international community” has a tendency “to only react to crisis,” Goldschmidt said, which puts him in an “uncomfortable” position trying to “solve one specific case, which is Iran.” He offered two solutions that, by involving the UN Security Council, would make Iran’s current voluntary commitments legally binding:
“The minimum for me is to report [Iran] to the Security Council to request Iran to immediately resume the suspension of all enrichment-related activities, and, second, [for the Security Council] to provide the IAEA with a significantly increased verification mandate and authority. Once more, this has nothing to do with sanctions.”
Iran is moving to restart its suspended uranium enrichment program. Negotiations with the European Union have collapsed and the crisis is escalating. Does the United States -- or Israel -- have a military option?
The same neoconservative pundits who campaigned for the invasion of Iraq are now beating the drums on Iran. Urging us this week to keep military options open, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol said Iran’s “nuclear program could well be getting close to the point of no return.” Writing from the same talking points, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said, “Instead of being years away from the point of no return for an Iranian bomb…Iran is probably just months away.”
Do they reflect the thinking of senior officials closely aligned with these political currents? No official has indicated that they do. But just one year ago, Vice President Cheney seemed to be thinking along exactly these lines when he told radio host Don Imus on Inauguration Day, "Iran is right at the top of the list." Cheney came close to endorsing military action, noting that "the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."
There is no need for military strikes against Iran. The country is five to ten years away from the ability to enrich uranium for fuel or bombs. Even that estimate, shared by the Defense Intelligence Agency and experts at IISS, ISIS, and University of Maryland assumes Iran goes full-speed ahead and does not encounter any of the technical problems that typically plague such programs.
This is not a nuclear bomb crisis, it is a nuclear regime crisis. US Ambassador John Bolton has correctly pointed out that this is a key test for the Security Council. If Iran is not stopped the entire nonproliferation regime will be weakened, and with it the UN system.
But it will have to be diplomats, not F-15s that stop the mullahs. An air strike against a soft target, such as the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan (which this author visited in 2005) would inflame Muslim anger, rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular government and jeopardize further the US position in Iraq. Finally, the strike would not, as is often said, delay the Iranian program. It would almost certainly speed it up. That is what happened when the Israelis struck at the Iraq program in 1981. (Read More)
Nonproliferation experts Goldschmidt and Perkovich discuss next steps and options for UN Security Council.