Location: Texas

Monday, January 17, 2005

Leveraging Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

Last year Bush proposed a time out on proliferation of nuclear fuel making plants. Last week Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proposed a five-year international moratorium on the further construction of such plants as documented at National Review Online.

[..] the U.S., its partners, and the IAEA should use the next five years to reassess which nuclear activities and materials can be safeguarded to provide timely warning of attempts to steal or divert them to make bombs. Certainly, after A. Q. Khan's proliferation successes (including the sale of a high-fidelity, Chinese-tested, missile-deliverable nuclear-weapons design), the amount of time, money, and staff required to make a bomb have declined. Also, with new technologies more widely available (e.g., compact uranium-enrichment centrifuges), what can be hidden from inspectors' view is greater than it once was.

The question in each case is by how much. Here, we owe it to ourselves and the future of nuclear power — to say nothing of the security of others — to find out. Certainly, what the IAEA can know and what it can adequately safeguard against is less than we previously thought. This has been made clear by the cascade of proliferation revelations in Iran, North Korea, and Libya, and the hair-raising discoveries about missing plutonium in Japan and unmonitored Pakistani nuclear sales. They're the reason why Bush last year proposed a time out on the further spread of nuclear-fuel-making plants and why ElBaradei's proposal last week is one we should back.

Certainly to be seriously considered. However, if that doesn't work, and it seems doubtful that Iran will go along with a moratorium on nuclear proliferation, another plan seems to be in the works.

WASHINGTON- U.S. commandos are hunting for secret nuclear and chemical weapons sites and other targets in Iran, and have a plan to turn the hard-line Islamic country into the next front in the war on terrorism.
"It's not if we're going to do anything against Iran. They're doing it," an ex-intelligence official tells this week's issue of The New Yorker.

Since at least last summer, the U.S. teams have penetrated eastern Iran, reportedly with Pakistan's help, the magazine said.

"Iraq is just one campaign," the official told investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. "The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."

UPDATE (7:46pmCST):

I heard this report this afternoon almost as soon as I had posted the comments above, but just now have had the chance to get to it.

The Pentagon on Monday criticized a published report that said it was mounting reconnaissance missions inside Iran to identify potential nuclear and other targets.
"The Iranian regime's apparent nuclear ambitions and its demonstrated support for terrorist organizations is a global challenge that deserves much more serious treatment than Seymour Hersh provides in the New Yorker article titled "The Coming Wars," the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Lawrence DiRita, said in a statement.

Sounds reasonable. Still, it's a pretty good dis-information campaign.


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