Monday, February 23, 2009

Iran and nuclear enrichment: time for the US to stop beating war drums

It should be pointed out that with respect to Iraq prior to 2003 the International Atomic Energy Agency was right about Saddam's nuclear program, and US intelligence was wrong.

So with the perspective, consider these two stories regarding Iran and nuclear enrichment (paying special attention to US rhetoric in the background):

Begin here:

Much hay was made late last week over the allegation that the Iranian government had underreported the amount of urnaium it had enriched through November. The White House accused Iran of reneging on its international obligations, and called the nation an “urgent problem that has to be addressed.”

Not so, says the International Atomic Enegy Agency (IAEA), which said the discrepancy between the reported and actual figures were “inherent in the early commissioning phases of such a facility when it is not known in advance how it will perform in practice.”

They added that nothing indicates that Iran made any deliberate attempts to conceal the amount of uranium it had enriched, that Iran had been cooperating on the matter to improve future estimates, and that no nuclear material could have been removed from the facility.

And then go here:

Despite the attention being paid to claims that Iran has enough uranium to hypothetically build a nuclear weapon, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that Iran is “not there yet” as far as the capability of making weapons is concerned.

Iran has enriched 1,010 kilograms of uranium hexaflouride to the low levels needed for the Bushehr nuclear power plant which is approaching operation. Some say this would be sufficient to make a weapon, however the IAEA has continued to verify that none of it has been diverted to any other use.

The White House has presented the Iranian nuclear program as an “urgent problem that has to be addressed,” in spite of the fact that the IAEA has insisted that has been cooperating on recent issues.

Now, take this into consideration:

The Obama administration is reviewing controversial plans to locate 10 missile interceptors in Poland and will take Russia's concerns into account, the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said yesterday. The Bush administration pressed ahead with the plans, with a large radar in the Czech Republic, in what it said was part of a project to defend the US and European from an attack from Iran.

Moscow has indicated it would abandon plans to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave bordering Poland, if Washington changed its position.

Extending the administration's conciliatory approach over missile defence, Gates told a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Krakow, Poland, that the US would review the project "in the context of our relationship with both Poland and the Czech Republic, our relationship with the Nato alliance ... and also in the context of our relationship with the Russians".

"The fact is, with the economic crisis, Afghanistan and Iraq, the administration has not yet reviewed where it is on a whole range of issues, including relationships with allies, the missile defence programme, the relationship with the Russians," Gates told reporters.

If I believed that the US was keeping up its rhetoric about Iran's nuclear capability in order to have a bargaining chip to drop missile defenses in eastern Europe when we later discover that Iran doesn't possess those capabilities, that would be one thing.

Unfortunately, I don't believe that. Increasingly I have come to believe that this administration wants to do Middle Eastern policy better, but not differently.

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