Obama’s tough choice on Iran

Obama’s tough choice on Iran

The U.S. and its allies are not saying Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons; they’re warning that allowing Iran to assemble the full nuclear fuel cycle to which it is entitled as a signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty — particularly uranium enrichment — gives it an infrastructure that could quickly be converted to produce bomb materiel. Stating Washington’s case at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna this week, Ambassador Glyn Davies warned that Iran had already created enough low-enriched uranium that, if it kicked out nuclear inspectors and reconfigured its enrichment plant, could be re-enriched to provide materiel for a single bomb. “We have serious concerns that Iran is deliberately attempting, at a minimum, to preserve a nuclear option,” Davies said.

Moscow sees the problem in terms of strengthening the safeguards against Iran weaponizing nuclear materials, rather than trying to prevent it attaining “breakout” capacity by denying its right to enrich uranium.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated this week that Iran no intention of ending uranium enrichment, or of negotiating away its nuclear rights. That doesn’t necessarily preclude a diplomatic solution to the standoff, but it underscores the likelihood that the Western powers might have to compromise on their own demands in order to achieve one. In some previous rounds of negotiation, Iran has been more open to discussing strengthening of the IAEA monitoring regime and other safeguards against weaponization. Right now, however, it’s far from clear that Iran is in an accommodating mood, given its fierce and ongoing domestic power struggle. [continued…]

Secret Iranian missile memos

I have been given a series of what appear to be internal secret Iranian documents by sources I trust. If authentic, and I believe they are, they provide important insights into Iran’s missile development program and have important implications for North Korea’s as well. Unfortunately, to protect my sources and the Iranians who spirited these documents out to the West, I cannot be too explicit about their contents. The following examination of these memos contains both information from and my analysis of them. I have tried to explicitly point out what is my speculation.

The memos cover, in a somewhat sketchy way, a lot of ground. Perhaps the most important aspects are those that deal with how several countries collaborate in either developing missiles or selling missile technology to Iran. The memos use codes for the different collaborator countries but I think I know the meanings of the codes. If my understanding is correct, they indicate that representatives from North Korea and China have been present at all phases of production and flight testing. Iran has also gotten important help from Russia, though Russians do not appear to have been as ubiquitous as the Chinese and the North Koreans. The evidence from the memos indicates that this help is on the governmental level rather than “rogue” individuals. This includes Russian help though Russia has been particularly vocal in its denials of such assistance. Despite these denials, the evidence of foreign assistance, both images of engines and turbopumps that are obviously of Russian origin—either their actual production or at the very least their designs—and these internal Iranian memos, make the case overwhelmingly. [continued…]

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