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Moving the Goal Posts on Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Issue

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Gary Samore, who has a long history of involvements with the US government on matters related to national security and nuclear proliferation, in particular on Iran’s nuclear case, recently made outrageous remarks at the Wilson Center in Washington [1]. It seems that he has spoken with selected people from all sides: Iran, Israel, Persian Gulf Arab states, and of course the Bush administration decision makers, regarding this critical matter. Since the NIE report revealed that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, many experts like Samore have been trying to rationalize how to keep the pressure on Iran now that the previously dire assessments made by the US intelligence organizations have been completely reversed by these very same organizations.

Samore and others are now claiming that even a safeguarded enrichment plant, such as the Natanz facility in Iran would not be sufficient (yet, one should recall that a safeguarded plant is under direct and real-time scrutiny of the IAEA by the use of tamper-proof cameras, unannounced inspections, and many other means). He rationalizes this by saying that even industrial enrichments at the level of 5% for reactors would allow Iran a latent capacity for a break out towards the 90% level of enrichment needed for a nuclear weapon, even if everything was under the watchful eyes of the IAEA.

Of course, these so-called experts never discuss that in order to achieve a weapon’s grade fissile material, the Natanz facility may have to resort to highly inefficient batch processing and that it would probably take more than a year to produce the 25 Kg of nearly pure uranium 235 which would be needed for a bomb. This would of course afford many opportunities for the inspectors to detect any NPT safeguard violations on the part of the Natanz plant operators.

Thus, no matter what Iran accepts as part of its nuclear transparency-- even intrusive inspection of non-nuclear sites such as advanced centrifuge assembly plants--it will not be satisfactory to these experts. Samore is even on the record [1], stating “I do not trust the Iranians.” This implies that, even if the IAEA were to resolve all the remaining ambiguities, there would not be a single acceptable scenario that Samore and other like-minded supporters of Israel will ever accept a nuclear Iran [2, 3]. Owing to the long term influence of these experts on the US nuclear policy towards Iran, this is exactly what the White House has been demanding all along [2].

Samore further clarifies his position that the third sanction, which he thinks will take place shortly, will be all what Bush administration can hope for before the end of their term in Washington. This clearly suggests that as long as Iran is not considered a friendly country to the US interests in the Middle East, the current (and perhaps the future) occupants of the White House will not honor Iran’s inalienable rights under the NPT. Unfortunately, pushing for additional sanctions will result in an escalation of tensions while the IAEA is attempting to complete its evaluation of Iran’s nuclear file. Based on Iran’s past reactions to these sanctions, it is conceivable that she may accelerate construction of its second module of 3000 centrifuges to retaliate against this proposed new sanction.

Undoubtedly, the third sanction will escalate the threat of another illegal and immoral war of pre-emption in the Middle East, this time most likely initiated by an Israeli aerial attack of the Natanz enrichment facility, followed by a wider US military intervention to deal with other nuclear sites. American warmongers such as Bolton and Prodhoretz are already seen to encourage US and Israel leaders towards a war, and they consider sanctions ineffective for persuading Iran to abandon its peaceful nuclear activities. Unless China and Russia resist this dangerous cycle of sanctions followed by the new construction of centrifuge cascades at Natanz, a war with Iran may be inevitable.

[1] http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=events.event_summary&event_

[2] The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (2007)

[3] http://www.herzliyaconference.org/Eng/_Articles/Article.asp?ArticleID=1656&CategoryID=223

 

http://www.eng.uci.edu/user/16

Nader Bagherzadeh is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. He regularly writes and lectures on the broad aspects of Iran's nuclear program.

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