Sunday, January 28, 2007

More of the same...

David Kurtz at TPM points us to this article in the Observer about the actual state of the Iranian nuclear program.
Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology.

Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved. The country denies developing weapons, saying its pursuit of uranium enrichment is for energy purposes.

Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace - in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US - a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production.

The disclosures come as Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], that it plans to install a new 'cascade' of 3,000 high-speed centrifuges at its controversial underground facility at Natanz in central Iran next month.

The centrifuges were supposed to have been installed almost a year ago and many experts are extremely doubtful that Iran has yet mastered the skills to install and run it. Instead, they argue, the 'installation' will more probably be about propaganda than reality.

The detailed descriptions of Iran's problems in enriching more than a few grams of uranium using high-speed centrifuges - 50kg is required for two nuclear devices - comes in stark contrast to the apocalyptic picture being painted of Iran's imminent acquisition of a nuclear weapon with which to attack Israel. Instead, say experts, the break-up of the nuclear smuggling organisation of the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadheer Khan has massively set back an Iran heavily dependent on his network.

[...]

Yet some involved in the increasingly aggressive standoff over Iran fear tensions will reach snapping point between March and June this year, with a likely scenario being Israeli air strikes on symbolic Iranian nuclear plants.

The sense of imminent crisis has been driven by statements from Israel, not least from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has insisted that 2007 is make-or-break time over Iran's nuclear programme.

Recent months have seen leaks and background briefings reminiscent of the softening up of public opinion for the war against Iraq which have presented a series of allegations regarding Iran's meddling in Iraq and Lebanon, the 'genocidal' intentions of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and its 'connections' with North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

It also emerged last week in the Israeli media that the country's private diplomatic efforts to convince the world of the need for tough action on Iran were being co-ordinated by Meir Dagan, the head of Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad.

As Kurtz says:
Hawkish elements of the Israeli government working in tandem with hawkish elements of the U.S. government to spread the chaos outward.
So, no real evidence of a nuclear threat yet hawks are over-hyping it anyway and threatening acts of war. Where have I heard this before...?



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