Sunday, August 14, 2005

 

Iran's Nuclear Ambition

A diplomatic success

From a transcript of an Israelil TV interview of President Bush:
Q: You mentioned Iran and I wonder, Mr. President, how imminently is the Iranian threat? There was a release lately of the U.S. intelligence that they won't have any capability in the next 10 years. Is this your latest information, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: My latest information is that the Iranians refuse to comply with the demands of the free world, which is: do not in any way, shape or form have a program that could yield to a nuclear weapon. And the United States and Israel are united in our objective to make sure that Iran does not have a weapon. And in this particular instance, the EU 3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- have taken the lead, been helping to send the message, a unified message to the Iranians.

Look, in all these instances we want diplomacy to work. And so we're working feverishly on the diplomatic route. And, you know, we'll see if we're successful or not. As you know, I'm --

Q: And if not?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, all options are on the table.

Q: Including use of force?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, as I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any President. You know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country. It's a difficult -- it's difficult for the Commander-in-Chief to put kids in harm's way. Nevertheless, I have been willing to do so as a last resort in order to secure the country and to provide the opportunity for people to live in free societies.
A few hours later:
But German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, one of the most prominent European opponents of the U.S.-led war on Iraq, told an election rally on Saturday the threat of force was not acceptable.

In what appeared to be a reference to Bush's remarks that "all options are on the table", Schroeder told the crowd in his home city of Hanover:

" ... let's take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn't work."
Unfortunately, some people know what does work:
In comments that will infuriate EU diplomats, (Iranian Nuclear Affairs Negotiator) Hosein Musavian said that Teheran took advantage of the nine months of talks, which collapsed last week, to finish work at its Isfahan enrichment facility.

'Thanks to the negotiations with Europe we gained another year in which we completed the [project] in Isfahan,' he told an Iranian television interviewer.

Mr Musavian also claimed that work on nuclear centrifuges at a plant at Natanz, which was kept secret until Iran's exiled opposition revealed its existence in 2002, progressed during the negotiations.
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"The IAEA give us a 50-day extension to suspend the enrichment and all related activities," he said. "But thanks to the negotiations with Europe we gained another year, in which we completed the [project] in Isfahan."

The plant, about 250 miles south of Teheran, carries out an early stage of the cycle for developing nuclear fuel, turning yellowcake into UF4 and then into UF6, a gas essential to enrichment.

"Today, we are in a position of power," Mr Musavian said. "Isfahan is complete and has a stockpile of products." Mr Musavian also said that Iran had further benefited from sweeteners offered by the EU, including the invitation to enter talks on Iran joining the World Trade Organisation.
Video here.

As The Economist notes:
At Isfahan, natural uranium (yellowcake) is turned into a gas that can then be spun in centrifuge machines to produce more usable uranium. So far, Tehran has not restarted work on the most sensitive part of the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium enrichment -- —a process that can be used to make either fuel for reactors or nuclear warheads. But it may be about to do so. On Wednesday, workers unsealed the section of the Isfahan plant where the final conversion to create weapons-grade uranium is carried out, again under IAEA supervision.
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Earlier this year, the Europeans persuaded America's president, George Bush, to support their incentives-based approach. He agreed that Iran could open talks on membership of the World Trade Organisation and import spare parts for its ageing fleet of civilian aircraft. But Tehran’s decision to back away from the process, coupled with recent political developments --— America criticised the election that brought Mr Ahmadinejad to power --— has complicated things. Iran seems determined to dust down its nuclear programme. And it is not clear that its government, having failed to take the carrots, would respond any more encouragingly to sticks.
Not good, especially considering Iran has also been cultivating an alliance with China these last two years.

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