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Iranian Nuclear Dance Continues

The events of the past week seem at first glance fast and furious. Upon closer inspection, it’s nothing more than the club re-mix version of the same old song.

Last Wednesday, an unnamed IAEA official reported that Iran had resumed conversion of Uranium ore at Isfahan. That IAEA official was aptly quoted saying:

“This is a rebuff to efforts to create some space to continue negotiations,” the diplomat close to the IAEA said. “It looks like Iran is confident the board will opt not to refer them.”

Following this, Mohammed elBaredai’s confidential IAEA report on Iran reportedly stated Friday that Iran had been “more forthcoming” but then added, “Iran’s full transparency is indispensable and overdue.” It was also revealed in the not-completely-confidential report that Iran had turned over plans it had obtained that detailed the manufacturing process for milling a hemispherical-shaped uranium payload. CNN referred to the instructions as merely “how to set up the complicated process of enriching uranium, which can used to make nuclear arms,” though later US envoy to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, made the details known.

“The most disturbing bit of information reported to us was the fact that the inspectors had uncovered this document that describes how to machine uranium into a hemisphere and to our knowledge about the only real reason to machine uranium into a hemisphere is to produce nuclear weapons,” he said.

Iran is reporting to the IAEA that it never asked for the designs, that it merely was provided to them by the Pakistani AQ Kahn network as some sort of sales and marketing pitch. AQ Kahn’s network was in the business of nuclear information and knowledge and, to a lesser degree, equipment on the back-end. The inanity of the Iranian explanation begs two questions:

1. If AQ Kahn sells information and knowledge, why give away any keys to the kingdom in a marketing ploy? Logic dictates otherwise.
2. If Iran never wanted the plans, why, after three years of this dance, are they only now turning over the documents? Again, logic dictates otherwise.

One possible explanation may be that the designs, according to a source familiar with the document, simply are ‘old Chinese designs’, outgrown by the Iranian researchers.

On the ‘nuclear cookbook’ revelations, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi quickly quipped, “When the U.S. and their allies found out ElBaradei’s report did not have negative points, they made a fuss about this baseless matter.”

Nonetheless, so baseless was the revelation of the ‘nuclear cookbook’ (and knowing all of this well before Friday’s ‘confidential’ IAEA report), Iran’s Majlis (Parliament) voted on Sunday (183-14) to resume enrichment and ban IAEA inspections if Iran were to be referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program.

Upholding the tradition of keeping the dance alive, the United States and the EU-3 have thus resolved not to refer Iran to the UNSC at this time, no small victory for Iran. With renewed efforts to outsource the enrichment process to Russia, the US and the EU3 (Britain, Germany and France) have agreed to resume ‘talks’ with Iran, this time bringing Russia to the table as another active player.

The most astute observation of the potential talks (or any past talks for that matter) comes from an unwittingly sage European diplomat.

The diplomat said the idea would be to “talk about (resuming) talks” between Iran and the trio of European Union negotiators on guaranteeing Tehran will not make nuclear weapons.

There will be no resuming talks, just talks about resuming talks. And, once the ‘real’ talks resume, they are sure to prove nothing more than a continuation of circular conversations in a seemingly perpetual spin cycle. It’s a lot like watching the movie ‘Groundhog Day’. Everyone knows precisely what is going to happen, but every time it’s on, you still watch the silly thing.

In short, this week’s cycle of events surrounding the Iranian nuclear weapons program is nothing more than a microcosm of the whirlwind cycle that has repeated relentlessly over the past three years.

The song remains the same. The Iranian Nuclear Re-Mix version.

Feedback

What do you think of the leaked CIA report that estimated Iran was ten years away from warhead capacity?

Dear Mr. Schippert:

Like you, we favor a tough line with the Iranian situation. However, we are more optimistic about the implications of the latest developments than you seem to be; they are more than just "talking about talks."

As we explain in our post on this topic

The world hardens around Iran

a major change has occurred recently, namely enlisting both Russia and China on to the side of pressuring Iran. Iran had previously hoped that either of these powers would protect Iran at the Security Council. Iran has now likely lost that protection.

The U.S. agreed to delay its motion to refer Iran to the Securitty Council this week, to allow the Russian proposal to play out. That is a minor price to pay for the prospect of signing up Russia and China against Iran.

Westhawk

Thank you for the honest assessment here, Westhawk.

In short, I think you will find the answer to your question of whether I value Russia as a new player in a previous InBrief.

ThreatsWatch.Org: InBrief: Iran's Nuclear Hand

Pavlovian in response after three years of 'The Dance', my optimism will remain highly guarded until anything appears beyond words, spoken or written.

Desert Rat,

IMHO, niether the CIA nor the IAEA have a clue. Therein lies the problem, similar to the inability to verify Saddam's WMD through UNSCOM.

The question you should be asking is this:

"Why did the CIA leak such an assessment?"

The answer to that question has more profound impact than any guesswork by a blind CIA or IAEA, willfully so or otherwise.

desert rat,

IMHO, most analysts believe Iran will implode politically at some point. The current regime is repeating the mistakes of the Shah...I.E. in the face of internal opposition, becoming more rigid. Rigid becomes brittle. (The reason democracies tend towards peace..they are adaptive)

The "64 thousand dollar question" in regards to Iran is whether they can achieve nuclear arms prior to the collapse.

Hence, various leaks on timelines as to when Iran might achieve nuclear arms.

Two years justifies fairly immediate military intervention...10 years justifies a "wait and see" attitude.

The Guardian has an article, "Iran in Turmoil as President's Purge Deepens," (via Fed. Republic of Lebanon) which discusses the growing conflict between Ahmadinejad and his supporters, who want to purge corruption and be honest about their desire to annihilate Israel and the U.S., and Khameini, Rafsanjani and the rest, who are corrupt, and want to be tactful about their intentions.

I haven't decided where I think this is leading, but I think that if this fight creates an opening for democratic reformers, then it is good. But it should be understood that both factions are enemies of the U.S. So it is sort of like Kissenger's quip about the Iran-Iraq War; it would be best if they could both lose. That is the only silver lining I see here.

It seems to me that Iran is both a pawn in a great power game, and a manipulator of the great powers to achieve its goal of becoming a nuclear power itself. I certainly hope we have more constructive options than simply talking about talks.