October 17, 2009
The way ahead with the dispute between Iran’s nuclear programme and the possible response of western powers is foggy. News from last weeks give some base for optimism (peaceful solution) while others are increasing the use of military option. What’s clear to me is that the stakes are now higher than before.
From my point of view following aspects may have influence for one or the other solutions:
- Confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is able to design and produce a workable atom bomb now
- Recent massive missile exercises implemented by Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Air Force
- Information leaks about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s secret visit to Moscow on Sept. 7
- Iran has agreed to have the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspect a previously secret nuclear facility near Qom as well transport of low-enriched uranium to France and Russia for reprocessing
- Iran’s right to develop its nuclear program for civil and military purposes
- Nobel peace prize won by U.S. President Obama
“Secret” IAEA report
Not so long time ago US and UN officials claimed that Iran was five years away from making nuclear weapons. Two years ago, American intelligence agencies published a detailed report concluding that Tehran halted its efforts to design a nuclear weapon in 2003. But in recent months, Britain has joined France, Germany and Israel in disputing that conclusion, saying the work has been resumed. The United States is now re-evaluating its 2007 conclusions.
One reason for re-evaluation is still “secret” IAEA report, titled “Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Program”. It draws a picture of a complex program, run by Iran’s Ministry of Defense, “aimed at the development of a nuclear payload to be delivered using the Shahab 3 missile system,” Iran’s medium-range missile, which can strike the Middle East and parts of Europe. The program, according to the report, apparently began in early 2002. Senior staff members of the United Nations nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb. If Iran is designing a warhead, that would represent only part of the complex process of making nuclear arms. Experts say Iran has already mastered the hardest part, enriching the uranium that can be used as nuclear fuel. Most dramatically, the report says the agency “assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” based on highly enriched uranium. (My source: The New York Times, 4rd Oct. 2009)
Netanyahu’s secret visit to Moscow
Nearly one month there has been rumours about secret visit of Binyamin Netanyahu – Israel’s prime minister – to Moscow on September 7th; a visit which long has been denied. However an article in The London Times , which I next refer, gives quite comprehensive description about it.
Netanyahu flew to the Russian capital with Uzi Arad, his national security adviser, last month in a private jet. His office claimed he was in Israel , visiting a secret military establishment at the time. It later emerged that he was holding talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and President Dmitry Medvedev. “We have heard that Netanyahu came with a list and concrete evidence showing that Russians are helping the Iranians to develop a bomb,” said a source close to the Russian defence minister last week.
Iran has agreed in principle to allow international inspectors at a previously secret nuclear facility near Qom – the first round is scheduled for Oct. 25.
IHS Jane’s interactive image analysis – published in The New York Times on 29. Sep. – about Iran’s hidden nuclear facility can be found from here
Same time Iran has agreed to turn over most of its previously low-enriched uranium to the Russians and French for reprocessing to a higher concentration, and it will eventually be returned to them as fuel rods for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
However there is also opinions that Iran’s motivation for agreement is the quality-problem of its uranium. The impurities, certain metallic fluoride compounds, would interfere with centrifuge enrichment. The contaminated fuel it has produced so far would be all but useless for nuclear weapons. To make enough fuel for a bomb, Iran might have to start over — this time avoiding the impurities.
The Israelis believe the Iranians have “cold-tested” a nuclear warhead, without fissile material, for its Shahab-3B and Sejjil-2 rockets at Parchin, a top-secret military complex southeast of Tehran. The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Air Force on last Sunday launched massive missile exercises during which it tested different types of modern missiles.
The western powers see military dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Program as thread. One could sometimes consider Iran’s weaponisation activities also from Iranian point of view. In 1953 the Americans toppled their democratically-elected, pro-western government to gain control of their oil reserves. USA re-instated the Shah on his throne, then kept order via the dreaded Savak (security police) with ruthless repression for over a quarter-century. After the Islamic Revolution, during the 80’s, USA gave aid to Iraq and armed Saddam Hussein e.g with chemical weapons to use them on Iranians. After 1980, the USA has been trying to find a means to get Iran back under its thumb, to control their resources, and install a puppet government. Hated by some its neighbours and some superpowers, isolated and weak, it is easy to understand that Nuclear Weapons can be considered as necessary insurance policy in hostile environment.
From my point of view Iran has the same right to develop its nuclear program for civil and military purposes as all the other states. Iran isn’t doing anything else than USA, Soviet Union/Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, South Africa and North Korea haven’t already done. Sure Iran’s programs have been implemented clandestine, but so is the case with all others too.
Now “new” information pieces (Iran has already bomb, tests of modern missiles, secret Qom nuclear facility, Ahmadinejad still in power) are indicating that the Americans and Israelis are preparing the public for war. Even some polls now indicate that more than 60 percent of the U.S. public now favours military action against Iran. USA were aware of Russia’s cooperation on military hardware and its involvement in Iran ’s civilian nuclear program. The extent of the Iranian program with military dimension and the role of Russian and Pakistan experts underlined the growing urgency of action.
The new information can serve also efforts for peaceful solution. The purpose of PM Netanyahu’s secret visit in Russia maybe was to show to Russia and Iran that USA and Israel are updated about Iran’s situation and they are considering to use fast military option against Iran ’s nuclear facilities.
Nobel peace prize won by U.S. President Obama can now have real peace building effect – bombing Iran before Nobel ceremony would give bad image. On the other hand situation gives him the opportunity to move one step further with his initiatives. Indeed last negotiations about Iran’s nuclear programme showed some progress as well direct USA/Iran dialogue for long time.
Iran finally may be ready to make a deal. Iran’s leadership may have achieved much of what it set out to accomplish when it stepped up its clandestine nuclear program in 1999. In contentious, high-stakes negotiations, deals are possible when both sides have a chance to declare victory, and that point may have been reached.
More my Iran articles:Ari Rusila