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The Situation in Iran: How Did This Happen?

John on November 24, 2008 at 10:20 am

Perhaps you saw the story on Drudge. The Iranian regime of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad now has enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb:

That uranium has been enriched to the low levels needed to fuel a nuclear reactor. To further purify it to the highly enriched state needed to fuel a nuclear warhead, Iran would have to reconfigure its centrifuges and do a couple months of additional processing, nuclear experts said.

“They have a weapon’s worth,” Thomas Cochran, a senior scientist in the nuclear program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private group in Washington that tracks atomic arsenals, said in an interview.

He said the amount was suitable for a relatively advanced implosion-type weapon like the one dropped on Nagasaki. Its core, he added, would be about the size of a grapefruit. He said a cruder design would require about twice as much weapon-grade fuel.

So they’re a “couple months” away from having a Nagasaki scale bomb. How did we get here? Was anyone paying attention? To answer that question let’sjump back in time and see what Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, had to say in August of last year:

I am clear about is that at this stage, you need to give Iran a chance to prove its stated goodwill. [...] sanctions alone, I know for sure, are not going to lead to a durable solution.

There have been a lot of armchair coaches in the last few days, who have been shooting from hip frankly, trying to say, ‘this is not good, this is a delay tactic, this is an effort to manipulate’. That…could be true but I think we need to give the Iranians a chance to prove that they are serious. I am not going to tell them, ‘I don’t trust you and therefore I’m not ready to talk to you’. If someone is telling me, ‘I want to cooperate’, the minimum I should do is to give them a chance to prove that. And I made it very clear to them, if you are not serious, it will backfire. It will backfire in a big way because nobody then will be able to defend or to come to your support. They know the stakes.

So we were trying to give the Iranians a chance to prove themselves on the theory that they wouldn’t risk blowing their own credibility. And in case you’re wondering who the bad guys were in Elbaradei’s analysis, that would be the Bush administration. In September of last year he said this:

“I see war drums that are basically saying that the solution is to bomb Iran,” ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said today in an interview in Vienna. “It makes me shudder because some of the rhetoric is a reminder” of the period before the Iraq war.

ElBaradei reiterated expectations that Iran’s atomic program, subject to IAEA inspectors’ scrutiny since 2003, may be cleared by the end of this year of suspicion that the project was used as cover for nuclear weapons development.

“We have not come to see any undeclared activities or weaponization of their program,” ElBaradei said. “Nor have we gotten intelligence to that effect.”

That same month, ElBaradei was even more direct in an interview with Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: The US government has described Iran’s new willingness to cooperate as a transparent attempt to distract from its true intentions and from its continued development of the capabilities to produce a nuclear weapon. Is the IAEA too gullible?

ElBaradei: I am familiar with these accusations. They are completely untrue. It’s not possible to manipulate us. We are not naïve and we do not take sides. Our new Iran report also shows that the Iranian government is not adhering to the requirements set forth by the UN, which demanded an immediate stop to uranium enrichment.

So the Bush administration was “shooting from the hip” and Elbaradei, the man impossible to manipulate, assured the world that there was no evidence of “weaponization.”

Now let’s slide back to the present and look at those statements in hindsight. As noted, Iran now has enough uranium to create a bomb within a few months. But that’s just the beginning:

The country plans to start installing another 3,000 centrifuges early next year, adding to 3,800 that are already enriching uranium and another 2,200 which are being gradually introduced, the UN’s nuclear watchdog said.

Meanwhile, the IAEA’s access to the Iranian program has dwindled to zero:

“We had gridlock before but then at least we were talking to each other. Now it’s worse. There is no communication whatsoever, no progress regarding possible military dimensions in their programme,” said a senior UN official.

Having learned absolutely nothing, ElBaradei is looking forward to the Obama administration:

If there is a direct dialogue between the United States and Iran, I think Iran will be more forthcoming with the agency,” IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said.

“(A) political opening will also convince Iran to work with us to solve remaining technical issues,” he told a news conference in Prague after meeting Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

“That political component of the (Iran) issue requires in my view a direct dialogue with Iran and that’s why I am very encouraged by President-elect Obama’s statement that he is ready to engage Iran in a direct dialogue without preconditions.

I have a lot of hope if that is a new policy,” said ElBaradei, who has argued against isolating Iran and in favor of a broader deal between it and the United States addressing security and trade issues he sees as underpinning the dispute.

Events have shown that the Bush administration was right about Iran, but that doesn’t matter because ElBaradei still has hope, hope completely untempered by past failure. In fact, ElBaradei’s hope is renewed because Obama will, presumably, also act on hope.

This is how we got here. This is how we’ll get to a nuclear Iran during the first Obama term. And given the mullahs undisguised hatred of Israel, this is how Tel Aviv could disappear under a Nagasaki-sized mushroom cloud if this situation is allowed to continue as it has.

Let’s hope not.

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Category: Foreign Affairs |

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