PDA

View Full Version : Iran crosses red line, can enrich uranium up to 20pc grade



Peter Presland
01-25-2010, 10:03 AM
OK this has been bubbling away for years now and risks provoking a yawn. It's pretty serious stuff though. One way or another there will be a 'resolution' to it before much longer. My instinct is that it is getting close and I fear it WILL involve an Israeli-US attack on Iran.

This from Debka file:

Attaining the ability to enrich uranium up to 20 percent grade brings Iran dangerously close to "break-out" point for a nuclear weapon capability, DEBKAfile's intelligence sources report. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised the "good news" would be announced during the Feb. 1-11 celebrations of the Islamic Revolution. The "news" also prompted an urgent cabinet meeting in Jerusalem last week.
Ahmadinejad's announcement is a provocative demonstration of contempt for the six world powers and their offer to trade Iran's low-grade uranium for 20 pc enriched product overseas. By going public on the banned process and abandoning concealment, Iran's rulers are throwing down the gauntlet to them and Israel.
DEBKAfile's Iranian sources report that the hawks of the Islamic regime led by Ahmadinejad and spiritual ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have won the day for their tactics of jumping ahead of any possible US-led or Israel steps against their nuclear program with its own aggressive initiatives.
The Iranian president's enrichment announcement at a time that the Obama administration is pondering tough sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards was part of this policy; so were the Syrian and Hizballah declarations of military preparedness for a purported Israeli attack last week, taking advantage of an IDF war game to raise the alarm.
Our political sources predict that Tehran's provocative move will be met with more of the five months of foot-dragging with which Washington and Jerusalem have met Iran's contempt for one deadline after another for ending nuclear enrichment.
Both will continue to dither and pretend that stiff sanctions can scotch the Iranian nuclear threat. Tehran has meanwhile made good use of those five months to go forward and achieve a 20 pc enrichment capability.
The only straight talk from any Western leader has come from French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Saturday, Jan. 23, he told visiting Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri that France has evidence Iran is developing nuclear weapons contrary to its claims. He warned that Israel "would not stand by while Iran develops nuclear weapons."
I monitor Debka File only because it is a reliable mouthpiece for the Israeli Government and often flies kites for them.

Peter Presland
02-03-2010, 12:32 PM
Rather than start another new thread on Iran, this seemed the place, dealing as it does primarily with the 'Iran is developing a bomb' issue. It'll be interesting to see how the 'Bomb bomb Iran' shills deal with it. Seems to have put them on the back foot a bit judging by the quoted US response to date.

From Al Jazeera: (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/02/2010230058976481.html)
Jerusalem Post also reports it (http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=167610)


Iran: No problem with nuclear plan

Iran's president has indicated his country may be ready to ship its uranium abroad for enrichment, in line with a UN-backed proposal.
For months Iranian officials have criticised the plan proposed by six world powers last year for Iran to send out the bulk of its low-enriched uranium to be processed and returned as nuclear fuel to power its reactor.
But on Tuesday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would have "no problem" doing so.
"Some people made a fuss about it. There is no problem. We will seal a contract and we will give you 3.5 per cent uranium to enrich it to 20 per cent levels in four or five months and return to us," he said in an interview with Iranian broadcaster IRIB on Tuesday.
He dismissed concerns by "colleagues'' that the West would not return the uranium, saying Iran would respond to that by continuing to produce its own enriched uranium.
"If they don't return it, what will happen? We will be proven right, and then it will be proven that the agency [International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA] was not reliable and they will be discredited. Then we will be free to rely on ourselves for our activities."
US response
The US has responded that Iran needs to inform the IAEA if it plans to go ahead with the deal and transfer its uranium abroad for enrichment.
"There is a forum to be able to resolve whether this is a serious offer and that's through the IAEA. If Iran is serious, they can inform the IAEA that they are ready to accept the deal that's on the table," PJ Crowley, a US state department spokesman, said.
Western governments suspect Iran wants to make nuclear weapons but Iran says its nuclear programme is for civilian power generation.
The IAEA proposal would see about 70 per cent of Iran's low-enriched uranium taken abroad, reducing the stockpile of material that could be enriched to a higher level and possibly be used to make nuclear weapons.
The uranium would be returned to Tehran about a year later as refined fuel rods, which can power reactors but cannot be readily turned into weapons-grade material.
Conservative opposition
The proposal was first drawn up in October by six countries the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany and refined later that month in talks among Iran, the US, Russia and France.

http://english.aljazeera.net/mritems/Images//2010/2/3/20102315046696734_3.jpg Ahmadinejad said there was "no problem" sending uranium abroad for enrichment [EPA] But the deal stalled last year over disagreements about shipping and domestic resistance inside Iran. Alireza Ronaghi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tehran, said Iran's apparent change of heart had come about after an easing of conservative opposition to the proposal.
"President Ahmadinejad has said .... Iran has the technology at its disposal to produce uranium enriched to the level that could be used as fuel, and now that Iran possesses that technology there is no problem in sending the uranium outside," he said.
"The main problem was within Iran, where some conservatives were trying to lash out at the president because of his willingness to strike a deal with foreign powers, but after months of debate it seems like that obstacle has been removed.
"At the beginning there was a lot of fuss inside the parliament and elsewhere in the public domain about the government backing down against foreign powers, but little-by-little things have changed."
Position unclear
However, it remains unclear how much of a concession or acceptance Ahmadinejad's comments represent.
His timeframe of four or five months for the uranium processing overseas appears a long way off from the one year that Western officials say it would take for the process a failure to bridge that difference could allow Iran to accuse the West of foot-dragging.
He also did not say whether Iran was ready to ship out most of its uranium stockpile in one batch - another condition of the proposal designed to delay Iran's ability to make a nuclear weapon.
The US and its allies have been pushing for a fourth round of UN sanctions to be slapped on Iran for not complying with UN resolutions over its nuclear programme, but Russia and China are not in favour of any new penalties.

David Guyatt
02-03-2010, 01:34 PM
I saw that too Peter. Can't help but wonder if the DEBCAfile story was to preempt this announcement with spin?

Peter Presland
02-04-2010, 04:13 PM
I guess we've all become inured to the patently absurd, surreal nature of much of what passes for official explanations of their geo-political manoeuvrings but this really does deserve a prize.

Remember how Iran has been under escalating threat of further sanctions if it does not accede to EU demands over its uranium processing activities?

Well guess what the EU reaction is when it indicates that it will indeed accede to those demands?

That's right. The offer is rejected on the grounds that .... wait for it .... it is being made to avoid the threat of further sanctions!

Honest. And there was I thinking Joseph Heller's 'Catch 22' was THE classic bind.

This from today's Guardian: (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/03/iran-uranium-offer-dismissed-europe/print)

Officials say Ahmadinejad's offer to export uranium in return for fuel rods was aimed at ducking threat of sanctions

European officials yesterday dismissed an apparent offer by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to relaunch negotiations over Iran (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran)'s uranium stockpile as a time-wasting gambit aimed at ducking the threat of sanctions.
They said the Iranian president's offer to export uranium in return for fuel rods, under a deal struck last October that subsequently fell apart, would not be taken seriously unless it was presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA has its headquarters, said last night the agency had not received any formal signal that Iran was ready to change its negotiating position.
Officials in Europe and Washington argued the timing of Ahmadinejad's comments seemed aimed more at forestalling sanctions, under discussion at the UN security council, than at striking a deal. "My interpretation is that they're buying time," the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said today. "But it's been some years since 2007 that we've been talking. And I don't see progress I am perplexed and bit pessimistic.""

Julian Borger: 'Optimism dashed because they went back on agreement' Link to this audio (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/audio/2010/feb/04/iran-uranium-offer) Ahmadinejad used a Tuesday night interview on Iranian television to revive talk of a deal provisionally agreed in Geneva last year, under which up to 75% of Iran's low enriched uranium (LEU) would be shipped out, initially to Russia, and returned about a year later in the form of fuel rods for a research reactor in Tehran.
After heated debate on the issue in Iran, the government told the IAEA in January that the exchange of LEU for fuel rods would have to be simultaneous. That was rejected by western negotiators, for whom the year-long time lapse was an essential part of the deal, because it would temporarily reduce Iran's stockpile of LEU, which the west fears could be further enriched into fuel for a warhead.
Negotiations appeared to have broken down last month, but Ahmadinejad seemed to reopen bargaining in his television interview. "We have no problem sending our enriched uranium abroad," Ahmadinejad said. Critically, he also accepted the idea that there could be a time lapse of "four to five" months between the export of the uranium and the return of the fuel rods.
In his interview Ahmadinejad played down the concerns of Iranian critics that the deal was a trap intended to cheat the country out of its hard-won uranium by saying that Iran could easily enrich more if necessary.
The Iranian president's time lapse of four to five months fell well short of the year that western negotiators said it would take to further enrich Iranian uranium to the level required by the research reactor, and then manufacture the fuel rods. Some western officials raised the hope that it could be an opening bid intended to open serious new negotiations, but most questioned the seriousness of Ahmadinejad's the offer.
They said it was not clear whether the president was representing his own views, or a new consensus in Tehran. He did not say whether he was ready to export the 1,200kg of LEU agreed in Geneva in one consignment, or in several batches. The latter would also be unacceptable to the west, again because it would not lead to a serious reduction in the Iranian stockpile.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, also made clear yesterday that his government was not prepared to accept significant deviations from the deal struck in Geneva. He said Iran had failed to stick to that provisional agreement, but had put forward proposals that were "not supported by the IAEA and which were motivated not by an interest in finding a technical solution but more by some kind of distrust".
He added: "If Iran is ready to return to the original formula we will only welcome this."
His German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle told journalists that "Iran has to be measured by its actions, not by what it says. "It is up to Iran to show an end to its refusal to negotiate."
Although sanctions are being discussed at the security council, serious disagreements between the US and China, for example on internet freedom and on Tibet, have diminished the prospect of any consensus in the next few weeks.
Since Russia signalled it might agree to new sanctions last September, China has emerged as the principal opponent to punitive measures among the security council's five permanent members.
The Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, called for continued negotiations with Iran with the aim of finding a diplomatic solution. "We want a consensus as soon as possible," he said.

David Guyatt
02-04-2010, 04:40 PM
Amazing. This is very much the same story as the US refusing to accept a deal offered by Saddam as they wanted to go to war with him.

And it proves, to my mind anyway, that the US and UK dearly want to occupy/regime change Iran in order to effect direct control over their oil.

It's the Gulf of Tonkin gambit all over again.

Peter Presland
02-04-2010, 05:34 PM
Amazing. This is very much the same story as the US refusing to accept a deal offered by Saddam as they wanted to go to war with him.

And it proves, to my mind anyway, that the US and UK dearly want to occupy/regime change Iran in order to effect direct control over their oil.

It's the Gulf of Tonkin gambit all over again.
David

I could understand someone arguing that my intro to the EU (and identical US) response was a bit unfair. After all it DID also say that what was needed was for the offer to be made formally through the IAEA.

The point though is in the tone of the response. It is immediately confrontational, bossy, superior - 'VIP'-to-underling, Master-to-servant - smug, arrogant etc. EXACTLY the tone required to annoy and provoke anyone on the receiving end of it with an ounce of self-respect.

Rhetorical question: why could the response not be couched in encouraging terms; something like 'whilst the offer is most welcome it does also need to be made formal with appropriate documentation etc' - something like that?

The fact is, as you say, the WEST is absolutely determined on confrontation and I would like to know why the exact same confrontation should not be sought with Israel? (yet another rhetorical question of course)

David Guyatt
02-06-2010, 03:59 PM
Here we go again: "bend you knee and do what we demand or we'll regime change you", is how I interpret this.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8501819.stm


West questions Iran nuclear claim

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47254000/jpg/_47254132_008686108-1.jpg

Western powers have responded with scepticism to a claim by Iran that a deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel could now be close.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a security conference in Germany that an agreement could be reached in a "not too distant future".

But the US and European Union said they were unconvinced and Iran must make a meaningful offer or face new sanctions.

China, which opposes further sanctions, said talks were at a "crucial stage".

The US and its allies fear Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful in purpose.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, in Ankara, cast doubt on Iran's talk of an imminent deal, telling reporters: "I don't have the sense that we're close to an agreement."

Our hand is still reaching out towards them [Iran]. But so far it's reaching out into nothingness
Guido Westerwelle German foreign minister
If Iran was prepared to take up the proposal put forward by the so-called P5+1 - the US, Russia, China, UK and France plus Germany - on handing over its low-enriched uranium then it should take that message to the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, he said.

He suggested that Western powers needed to think about whether it was now time to take a "different tack" on Iran.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the annual Munich security conference: "Our hand is still reaching out towards them [Iran]. But so far it's reaching out into nothingness.

"And I've seen nothing since yesterday [Friday] that makes me want to change that view."

The US National Security Adviser, General James Jones, warned of tighter sanctions and deeper international isolation for Iran.

And EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton told the conference that Iran must respond to the head of the IAEA over its nuclear programme.

NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE
Mined uranium ore is purified and reconstituted into solid form known as yellowcake
Yellowcake is chemically processed and converted into Uranium Hexafluoride gas
Gas is fed through centrifuges, where its isotopes separate and process is repeated until uranium is enriched
Low-level enriched uranium is used for nuclear fuel
Highly enriched uranium can be used in nuclear weapons
"There is a need to restore confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's programme," she said, according to Reuters.

"This must be done by dialogue. But dialogue takes two, and I'm ready to engage in meaningful and productive talks that deal directly with the issues that trouble us."

The BBC Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne, reporting from London, says the strong suspicion is that the Iranian remarks are just another attempt to fend off new sanctions being proposed by the United States.

On Saturday, Mr Mottaki said he had had "a very good meeting" with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

"We discussed and exchanged views on a wide range of issues - views about the proposal that is on the table," he said.

There has been no word about the meeting from the IAEA.

Diplomatic manoeuvring

In January, diplomats said Iran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it did not accept the terms of the deal agreed in October by Iran, the IAEA and the P5+1.

In response, the US, Britain and France have been pressing for more sanctions and earlier this week circulated a discussion paper on further possible measures against the country.

The move came despite recent comments by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicating that the country would have "no problem" sending much of its low-enriched uranium abroad so it could be processed into fuel - an arrangement envisaged by the October agreement.

Western diplomats reacted warily to Mr Ahmedinejad's comments.

But China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told the Munich conference that the P5+1 should remain patient and keep pursuing a diplomatic solution to the issue.

David Guyatt
02-07-2010, 11:21 AM
The West's brinkmanship has resulted in the desired effect its seems. Reject every concession Iran offers, rub their face in it, and sit back and wait...and then announce that in the nme of peace we'll have a war. Nice:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8502705.stm


Iran sets new nuclear challenge

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47233000/jpg/_47233595_002960454-1.jpg

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked the country's nuclear chief to begin enriching uranium to 20%.

He made the announcement a day after Western scepticism at Iran's earlier claim that a deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel was close.

The US and European Union said they were unconvinced and Iran must make a meaningful offer or face new sanctions.

Western countries fear Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. But Tehran insists its programme is peaceful.

Civilian nuclear power requires uranium enriched to about 3%, but weapons grade uranium needs to be enriched to 90%.

Challenge

Mr Ahmadinejad made the announcement on Iranian state television.

"I had said let us give them [Western powers] two to three months, and if they don't agree, we would start ourselves," he said in a speech broadcast live.

"Now Dr [Ali Akbar] Salehi, start to make the 20% with the centrifuges," the president said, addressing Iran's nuclear chief who was sitting in the audience at a laser technology plant in Tehran.

But he added: "The doors for interaction are still open."

The BBC Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne, reporting from London, says Mr Ahmadinejad's announcement crosses a significant red line.

Iranians want to supply a research reactor with highly enriched uranium following the breakdown of the international deal to provide fuel for it.

NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE
Mined uranium ore is purified and reconstituted into solid form known as yellowcake
Yellowcake is chemically processed and converted into Uranium Hexafluoride gas
Gas is fed through centrifuges, where its isotopes separate and process is repeated until uranium is enriched
Low-level enriched uranium is used for nuclear fuel
Highly enriched uranium can be used in nuclear weapons
But some Western analysts say Iran does not possess the technical know-how to make fuel rods for the reactor, our correspondent says, and Western countries fear this could be a stepping stone towards the manufacture of weapons-grade material.

At the very least, this is a provocative act which will make negotiations more difficult, our correspondent says.

On Friday, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a security conference in Munich, Germany, that an agreement could be reached in a "not too distant future".

But US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said: "I don't have the sense that we're close to an agreement."

If Iran was prepared to take up the proposal put forward by the so-called P5+1 - the US, Russia, China, UK and France plus Germany - on handing over its low-enriched uranium then it should take that message to the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, he said.

He suggested that Western powers needed to think about whether it was now time to take a "different tack" on Iran.

In January, diplomats said Iran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it did not accept the terms of the deal agreed in October by Iran, the IAEA and the P5+1.

In response, the US, Britain and France have been pressing for more sanctions and earlier this week circulated a discussion paper on further possible measures against the country.

But China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told the Munich conference that the P5+1 should remain patient and keep pursuing a diplomatic solution to the issue.

Existing UN sanctions are meant to prevent the flow of any items or technology which might aid Iran in enriching uranium or developing nuclear weapon delivery systems.

The sanctions range from actual sales or supplies to dealings with named individuals.

Peter Presland
02-09-2010, 11:08 AM
If you need any more persuading that the Iran/West stand-off is developing into the most grave threat of a major conflagration since WWII, just read the following pieces from Novosti, then be sure to watch this 6 minute Clip from Yesterday's Fox News. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFLt8ohwh-U&feature=player_embedded#)

NOTE: My opinion of Fox News is unprintable but, in similar fashion to Debka file, the Murdoch Press and the BBC, their output is often VERY revealing - In particular note the interviewer's scathing certainty about Iran.

The real must-watch part of the clip starts at 1:10 - an interview with Michael Goodwin, just back from a week in Tel Aviv, who states - and then repeats and stresses when picked up about it - that 'a senior and very credible Israeli source' told him that Israel WILL use tactical nuclear weapons in their pretty much inevitable looming strike on Iran.

I know we've heard much of this refrain before - ad nauseam in fact - but, with reports of both US anti-missile ships and Israeli surface ships and submarines passing through the Suez Canal en-route to the Persian Gulf in the past week, the sense of impending action is becoming palpable.

From Novosti: (http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20100208/157810928.html)

Iran develops air defense system comparable to Russia's S-300

Iran has developed its own air defense system comparable to and even more sophisticated than the Russian S-300 system, the IRNA news agency said Monday, citing an Iranian military official. Russia signed a contract with Iran on the supply of at least five S-300 air defense systems to Tehran in December 2005. However, there have been no official reports on the start of the contract's implementation.
"In the near future, a new domestically-made air defense system will be unveiled by the country's experts and scientists which is as powerful as the S-300 system, or even stronger," IRNA quoted Heshmatollah Kassiri.
He said the delay in the implementation of the S-300 delivery contract was unacceptable, and Iran would do everything possible to protect its "sensitive nuclear centers."
Iranian Ambassador to Russia Seyyed Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi earlier said the S-300 contract had been stagnated by some technical issues.
However, many experts believe Moscow has refused so far to honor the S-300 contract due to pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv.
Both the United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program and have expressed concern over S-300 deliveries, which would significantly strengthen Iran's air defenses.
Russian defense industry officials have repeatedly said that Russia is interested in fulfilling the contract, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but the future of the contract would largely depend on the current situation in international affairs and the Kremlin's position.
The advanced version of the S-300 missile system, called S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), has a range of over 150 kilometers (over 100 miles) and can intercept ballistic missiles and aircraft at low and high altitudes, making the system an effective tool for warding off possible air strikes.
MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti)
More from Novosti: (http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20100208/157809895.html)

Iran builds own aerial drones with strike capabilities

http://en.rian.ru/images/15781/02/157810276.jpg
RIA Novosti.Alexei Danichev (http://en.rian.ru/)


15:1408/02/2010
Iran started on Monday production of two domestically-developed unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering high-precision bombing strikes and performing reconnaissance missions, the Fars news agency said.
Iran unveiled the drones, dubbed Ra'd (Thunder) and Nazir (Harbinger), at a plant in the northern province of Mazandaran.
"We plan to manufacture UAVs...at this site" Fars quoted Hamed Saeedi, managing director of Farnas Aerospace Company in charge of the project, as saying.
He said both UAVs were short-range, low-altitude drones with reduced radar-detection signature.
According to analysts, Iran has recently made significant progress in developing various types of combat planes and succeeded in gaining the technical know-how for producing aircraft and drones with stealth capabilities.
Iran launched a domestic arms development program after a U.S. weapons embargo was imposed during its 1980-88 war with Iraq. Since 1992, the Islamic Republic has reportedly produced its own Saeqeh and Azarakhsh jet fighters, stealth-capable Ghadir submarine, missile boats, torpedoes, tanks and armored carrier vehicles.
Iran frequently holds military drills and shows off modern weaponry in an effort to demonstrate its readiness to thwart any attack on its territory.
MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti)
And that Fox News linke again - a MUST watch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFLt8ohwh-U&feature=player_embedded#)

Magda Hassan
02-09-2010, 11:41 AM
It is getting hot. They are just chaffing at the bit aren't they? I still think one important thing to look for, if we can see it at all, will be migration in any numbers of Iranian Jews out of the country. With up to 40,000 there I don't think it domestically good for Israel to be incinerating them. If they are being induced, over and above what diaspora Jewish communities usually are, it would be a clear signal to me. There is a big campaign to get the Yemeni Jews out of Yemen. Many have gone but many don't want to go and don't want to go to Israel. But it is getting more and more difficult for them to remain.

Peter Presland
02-11-2010, 03:21 PM
Here's a sober analysis (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LB12Ak03.html) of the latest moves in Iran's uranium enrichment saga from Asia Times

Its only real problems - and they are BIG ones, TWO elephants in the room in fact - are that it appears to assume:

1. that the US actually wants a deal that leaves the Iranian government unchanged, and
2. Israel and its Zionist Crazies have no real bearing on the matter - since Israel is not mentioned at all.

Worth a read nonetheless because it contains some interesting angles:



It is possible that by giving the go-ahead for the production of 20% enriched uranium, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has sufficiently jolted the other side to rethink its approach on the nuclear fuel-swap deal.

On the surface, Iran's decision has raised alarm bells in the West and has provoked a strong response from United States President Barack Obama, who has warned that his administration is "developing a significant regime of sanctions" to impose on Iran.

Even Moscow has expressed its displeasure, in the form of a statement by a Foreign Ministry official, which said, "We are disappointed with the Iranian step, which did not allow diplomats to agree on mutually acceptable ways for the fulfillment of the
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

It is possible that by giving the go-ahead for the production of 20% enriched uranium, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has sufficiently jolted the other side to rethink its approach on the nuclear fuel-swap deal.

On the surface, Iran's decision has raised alarm bells in the West and has provoked a strong response from United States President Barack Obama, who has warned that his administration is "developing a significant regime of sanctions" to impose on Iran.

Even Moscow has expressed its displeasure, in the form of a statement by a Foreign Ministry official, which said, "We are disappointed with the Iranian step, which did not allow diplomats to agree on mutually acceptable ways for the fulfillment of the
IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] proposal of higher-enriched uranium fuel production for the Tehran research reactor outside Iran."

Under a proposal put forward by the IAEA last year, Iran would hand over its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to be further processed in another country before being returned for use at the Tehran reactor. On February 2, after much flip-flopping, Iran said it was now ready to send its LEU abroad. Then, on February 7, Iran announced it would itself begin enriching uranium to 20%, while saying it was still open to discussing the original proposal.

This has heightened concerns that Iran aims to build nuclear weapons, something it has consistently denied.

However, not all hope is lost for the IAEA-proposed deal, and there are emerging signs of growing activity on both sides to come to some sort of mutually satisfactory agreement.

On Iran's part, various officials from the Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) to the Foreign Ministry have repeatedly stated that Iran is still open to the swap deal. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the AEO, told the Tehran daily Iran that the government was willing to suspend production of 20% uranium if there were an exchange "without preconditions" of Iran's 3.5% LEU in return for nuclear fuel rods. According to Salehi, Iran's LEU could be "sealed and put under the custody" of the IAEA until it received the fuel it needed for the medical research reactor.

The news from Washington on the other hand indicates that the US is now working on a new proposal aimed at salvaging the nuclear deal that was unveiled last October in Geneva. This focuses on procuring medical isotopes for Iran from the international market. An administration official told the Washington Post, "Rather than operate a reactor, this would be a more cost-effective and efficient approach."

Not everyone agrees with that assessment, however, and some US nuclear experts have openly admitted that Iran's home production of key ingredients (eg technetium 99) would be less costly and more efficient. (See Dangerous steps in Iran's nuclear dance Asia Times Online, February 9, 2010).

That aside, the problem with the US's new approach is that it apparently seeks to make the reactor redundant by the promise of delivering the reactor's net products. That will not wash with the Iranians, who have had an earful of unfulfilled promises over the past 30 years.

Instead, what may work to everyone's advantage is a "mixed approach", whereby the fuel swap under set timelines and delivery of medical isotopes to Iran would be the central elements of an agreement according to which Iran would refrain from engaging in enrichment activities deemed "highly dangerous" by the West.

"It's Iran's version of nuclear brinksmanship," said a Tehran foreign policy expert. "The message from Tehran is clear: take our counter-proposal seriously or face the consequence of Iran taking a giant step closer to the 'nuclear-capable' threshold ... There is cause for a pause on the part of Washington and London in their unreasonable rejection of Iran's proposal."

If a deal is worked out and a modified version of the IAEA proposal accepted, it would represent a unique victory for Iran's nuclear diplomacy, combining "soft" and "hard" power to elicit a favorable response from the "Iran Six" nations, ie the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany. These countries have engaged in nuclear negotiations with Iran over the past several years.

Also, if there were a breakthrough, it would frustrate some of the hardline voices in Iran that argue in favor of Iran "deepening its nuclear capability". To silence such voices and to agree to limit Iran's enrichment activities to low levels (below 5%), Iran's top decision-makers would have to show that they had struck the right bargain without selling themselves short.

As Iran celebrates the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on Thursday, with people expected to take to the streets in their thousands across the country - although some will be protesting against the current government - there are rays of hope that the dark clouds of a more intensified nuclear crisis may be disappearing.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. His latest book, Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) is now available.

Magda Hassan
02-17-2010, 12:12 AM
Mmmmmm...

Is Iran Running a Bluff?
Did Robert Gibbs let the cat out of the bag?
By Pat Buchanan

February 16, 2010 "Creators (http://www.creators.com/opinion/pat-buchanan.html)" -- Last week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the world that Iran, unable to get fuel rods from the West for its U.S.-built reactor, which makes medical isotopes, had begun to enrich its own uranium to 20 percent.

From his perch in the West Wing, Gibbs scoffed:

"He (Ahmadinejad) says many things, and many of them turn out to be untrue. We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree to which they now say they are enriching."

But wait a minute. If Iran does not "have the capability" to enrich to 20 percent for fuel rods, how can Iran enrich to 90 percent for a bomb?

What was Gibbs implying?

Is he confirming reports that Iran's centrifuges are breaking down or have been sabotaged? Is he saying that impurities, such as molybdenum, in the feed stock of Iran's centrifuges at Natanz are damaging the centrifuges and contaminating the uranium?

What explains Gibbs' confidence? Perhaps this.

According to a report last week by David Albright and Christina Walrond of the Institute for Science and International Security, "Iran's problems in its centrifuge programme are greater than expected. ... Iran is unlikely to deploy enough gas centrifuges to make enriched uranium for commercial nuclear power reactors (Iran's stated nuclear goal) for a long time, if ever, particularly if (U.N.) sanctions remain in force."

Thus, ISIS is saying Iran cannot make usable fuel for the nuclear power plant it is building, and Gibbs is saying Iran lacks the capability to make fuel rods for its research reactor.

Which suggests Iran's vaunted nuclear program is a busted flush.

ISIS insists, however, that Iran may still be able to build a bomb. Yet, to do that, Iran would have to divert nearly all of its low-enriched uranium at Natanz, now under U.N. watch, to a new cascade of centrifuges, enrich that to 90 percent, then explode a nuclear device.

Should Iran do that, however, it would have burned up all its bomb-grade uranium and lack enough low-enriched uranium for a second test. And Tehran would be facing a stunned and shaken Israel with hundreds of nukes and an America with thousands, without a single nuke of its own.

Is Iran running a bluff? And if Gibbs and Albright are right, how long can Iran keep up this pretense of rapid nuclear progress?

Which brings us to the declaration by Ahmadinejad on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which produced this headline in The New York Times: "Iran Boasts of Capacity to Make Bomb Fuel."

Accurate as far as it went, this headline was so incomplete as to mislead.

For here is what Ahmadinejad said in full:

"When we say that we don't build nuclear bombs, it means that we won't do so because we don't believe in having it. ... The Iranian nation is brave enough that if one day we wanted to build nuclear bombs, we would announce it publicly without being afraid of you.

"Right now in Natanz we have the capability to enrich to more than 20 percent and to more than 80 percent, but because we don't need to, we won't do so."

On Friday, Ahmadinejad sounded like Ronald Reagan: "We believe that not only the Middle East but the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons, because we see such weapons as inhumane."

Now, if as Albright suggests, Tehran cannot produce fuel for nuclear power plants, and if, as Gibbs suggests, Iran is not capable of enriching to 20 percent for fuel for its research reactor, is Ahmadinejad, in renouncing the bomb, making a virtue of necessity?

After all, if you can't build them, denounce them as inhumane.

Last December, however, The Times of London reported it had a secret document, which "intelligence agencies" dated to early 2007, proving that Iran was working on the final component of a "neutron initiator," the trigger for an atom bomb.

If true, this would leave egg all over the faces of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies whose December 2007 consensus was that Iran stopped seeking a bomb in 2003.

The Times credited an "Asian intelligence service" for having ably assisted with its story.

U.S. intelligence, however, has not confirmed the authenticity of the document, and Iran calls it a transparent forgery. When former CIA man Phil Giraldi sounded out ex-colleagues still in the trade, they, too, called the Times' document a forgery.

Shades of Saddam seeking yellowcake from Niger.

Are the folks who lied us into war on Iraq, to strip it of weapons it did not have, now trying to lie us into war on Iran, to strip it of weapons it does not have?

Maybe the Senate should find out before voting sanctions that will put us on the road to such a war, which would fill up all the empty beds at Walter Reed.

Patrick Buchanan is the author of the book "Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
http://www.creators.com/opinion/pat-buchanan.html

David Guyatt
02-17-2010, 10:07 AM
re the folks who lied us into war on Iraq, to strip it of weapons it did not have, now trying to lie us into war on Iran, to strip it of weapons it does not have?

Mmmmmm.

David Guyatt
02-25-2010, 02:44 PM
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61O33X20100225


Syria and Iran defy Clinton in show of unity
Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS
Thu Feb 25, 2010 8:27am EST

http://www.reuters.com/resources/r/?m=02&d=20100225&t=2&i=66640681&w=460&r=2010-02-25T132730Z_01_BTRE61O11DZ00_RTROPTP_0_SYRIA-IRAN

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria and Iran put on a show of unity and defied Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday, dismissing her call on Damascus to loosen its decades-long alliance with Tehran.

WORLD

President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed a bilateral deal to remove travel visas and attended a Muslim ceremony in the Syrian capital.

Ahmadinejad's visit came a day after Clinton said the United States was asking Syria "to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran," and to stop supporting the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, which is also backed by Iran.

"We must have understood Clinton wrong because of bad translation or our limited understanding, so we signed the agreement to cancel the visas," Assad said.

"I find it strange that they (Americans) talk about Middle East stability and peace and the other beautiful principles and call for two countries to move away from each other," he added.

Ahmadinejad told a joint news conference: "Clinton said we should maintain a distance. I say there is no distance between Iran and Syria."

He added: "We have the same goals, same interests and same enemies. Our circle of cooperation is expanding day after day."

Support for Hezbollah forms the linchpin of the Syrian-Iranian alliance, formed 30 years ago despite ideological differences between the ruling hierarchy in the two countries.

Diplomats in Damascus said Syrian support for the group has been a main sticking point in the rapprochement between Syria and the United States, which started shortly after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

NUCLEAR DISPUTE

Assad backed Iran in its nuclear dispute with the West and said Western moves to exert pressure on Tehran constituted "neo-colonization."

The United States, along with other United Nations Security Council members and Germany, is discussing possible fresh sanctions on Iran because of suspicions it is seeking to build a nuclear weapon, which it strongly denies.

Relations between Syria and Iran improved after the 1979 Iranian revolution that brought Shi'ite clergy to power. Alone among Arab countries, Syria, whose ruling hierarchy is secular, supported Iran during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war.

But their alliance is being tested by Syrian moves to seek a peace deal with Israel and the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iran did not hide its displeasure at Syria's participation in a 2007 U.S.-supervised Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland that it attended with Israel, prompting Syrian officials to emphasize that Syria was a sovereign country and not a proxy of Iran.

Syrian officials have also made it clear that while Syria is against any Israeli attack on Iran, Syria's struggle with Israel does not mean it would be party to any hostilities between Tehran and the Jewish state.

Clinton told Senate members this week that Syria's ties with Iran were "deeply troubling" to Washington and Syria must stop helping arm Hezbollah, an accusation Syria denies.

She urged Syria to resume peace talks with Israel, saying Washington would consider doing anything that could resolve the stalemate between them. Indirect talks between the two, under Turkish mediation, broke down two years ago.

Diplomats said U.S. envoy George Mitchell raised the issue of Syrian backing for Hezbollah during a meeting with Assad last month. Obama has since nominated an ambassador to Damascus after a five-year absence and Undersecretary of State William Burns, the architect of a deal that rehabilitated Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi, visited Damascus this month.

(my italics)