Follow-up on America’s latest wetting our pants episode: Iran’s secret atomic facility
As was perfectly clear in September – but lost amidst America’s hysterical crying — the Iran atomic facility at Qom is not significant. I will not embarrass anyone by providing links, but you know the stories. The rest of the world must believe us daft, going through this again so soon after the “Saddam’s nukes” fiasco.
- “IAEA Found Nothing Serious At Iran Site“, Reuters, 5 November 2009
- “Bunkers or Breakthrough?“, Roger Cohen (journalist), op-ed in the New York Times, 6 November 2009 — Interview with boss of IAEA.
- “Iranian enrichment has not grown, diplomats say“, Reuters, 11 November 2009
- “Future of Iran-U.S. Relations“, Christiane Amanpous interviews Mohammed ElBaradei, CNN, 8 November 2009 — A must-read for anyone interested in this situation.
Mohammed ElBaradei is Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). See his Wikipedia entry for details.
(1) “IAEA Found Nothing Serious At Iran Site“, Reuters, 5 November 2009 — Excerpt:
U.N. inspectors found “nothing to be worried about” in a first look at a previously secret uranium enrichment site in Iran last month, the International Atomic Energy chief said in remarks published Thursday.
… The nuclear site, which Iran revealed in September three years after diplomats said Western spies first detected it, added to Western fears of covert Iranian efforts to develop atom bombs. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for electricity.
(2) “Bunkers or Breakthrough?“, Roger Cohen, op-ed in the New York Times, 6 November 2009 — Interview with boss of IAEA. Excerpt:
Last month, it seemed there was a deal: Iran ships out most of its known low-enriched uranium — about 1,200 kilograms — and eventually gets fuel rods for a reactor producing medical isotopes. The agreement buys time. It slows the noisy, fast-ticking Israeli clocks by removing the stuff Iran could use to make a bomb.
But, as ElBaradei told me in an interview, “there’s total distrust on the part of Iran.” This has now expressed itself in a demand for “guarantees.” Iran has not balked by demanding that its uranium be sent out in phases — as some reports suggested — but by seeking cast-iron assurances that the fuel will come back.
… He also said inspectors had found “nothing to be worried about” in the underground facility at Qum built in secret by Iran. “The idea was to use it as a bunker under the mountain to protect things. It’s a hole in a mountain.”
(3) “Iranian enrichment has not grown, diplomats say“, Reuters, 11 November 2009 — Excerpt:
Iran has effectively stopped expanding active uranium enrichment since September, diplomats said, while considering a big power offer to fuel a medical reactor if it turns over enriched material seen as an atomic bomb risk.
While Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) has likely risen by 200-300 kg from 1,500 kg reported by U.N. monitors in August, the number of operating centrifuge machines at its Natanz enrichment plant has remained at about 4,600, they said
“The situation is now pretty much as it was in September,” said a senior diplomat in Vienna, where the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is based.
(4) “Future of Iran-U.S. Relations“, Christiane Amanpous interviews Mohammed ElBaradei, CNN, 8 November 2009 – Text has been slightly cleaned up. Excerpt:
AMANPOUR: Thank you very much for coming into the studio. It’s your last round of interviews before you depart, but it’s no easy slowing down right now.
ELBARADEI: No, it is not easy slowing down, but I hope if we can come to an agreement on this Iran issue, that would be a wonderful exit for me.
AMANPOUR: So what on earth has gone wrong? Just a month ago there were smiles, there were apparently agreements in principle. Everybody thought this was going to work. The Iranians were seeming thrilled at what was going on.
ELBARADEI: We are dealing with 50 years of mistrust, pride, and to take the first step to build confidence, Christiane, is a very rocky, rocky road. We still have an agreement that Iran will ship its low energy uranium, its material, to the west to be manufactured into fuel and sent back. The major issue, the rocky issue we’re still facing with is the sequencing, when they should ship that stuff out of Iran and when do they get the fuel? The Iranians basically want a swap.
ELBARADEI: This is a unique opportunity. This is the first time I’ve seen a US president genuinely committed to engage Iran fully, in every aspect of the relationship after 50 years of animosity. And I’ve heard the same from Ahmadinejad, that he also is really interested to fully engage the US. It’s an opportunity that will have a positive impact in every part of the Middle East and people need to look at the big picture.
AMANPOUR: OK, let’s look at the picture which is the deal. All of this LEU, what is the precise nature of their complaint right now?
ELBARADEI: The precise nature that you should trust us or why should we ship our stuff before we receive the fuel?
AMANPOUR: Is that a nonstarter?
ELBARADEI: I think for the US the whole symbol is that we need to ship the stuff out because that will diffuse the crisis, the perception that Iran is accumulating materials that could be used in a weapon. That perception will completely be eliminated if we moved the stuff out of Iran and then would give Barack Obama and his administration the time that he needs to negotiate with Iran in a calmer environment. So…
AMANPOUR: And how long was meant to be the time between shipping it out and getting back the enriched material?
ELBARADEI: Well, it usually depends on how fast you can get the fuel. It’s a technical issue. It would be probably within – we will make sure that the – the reactor will continue in operation all the time, but they will get the whole fuel by the end of 2010. … but the reactor will never stop. It’s a question of technical manufacturing.
AMANPOUR: So their complaint or their mistrust is about guarantees?
ELBARADEI: Correct. It’s really the question of the guarantees. Can we be sure that we will get the fuel? In the past we had bad experience from their perspective with the French, with the Germans. We never got our stuff back. But we tried in that proposal to have everything guaranteed. The agency will be taken custody of that material so, in other words, the international community will be taking custody of that material. The Americans, for the first time, agreed to guarantee that project will be implemented. That’s huge for the US.
AMANPOUR: How? How does the US guarantee – ?
ELBARADEI: By joining in that package and by signing a political declaration. And the Russian are committed again that deal will be implemented. So there is enough guarantees. And what I’m asking my Iranian colleagues, look at the big picture. You know, you have to take a risk for peace. Don’t miss that opportunity because the deal itself is very symbolic, but it would open the way for a huge change in the Middle East.
ELBARADEI: I think both of them understand the huge opportunity that lies ahead. … Technically, I think that the US would like to see the material out of Iran, that any deal has to involve the material out of Iran because that will diffuse the crisis, would give Barack Obama the opportunity to negotiate without – without all the pressure surrounding this material in Iran.
AMANPOUR: You mean negotiate on a bigger picture?
ELBARADEI: On a bigger picture. I mean, I think he made it very clear to me and publicly that he is ready to negotiate the whole nuclear issue, the trade, the technology, which security issues.
AMANPOUR: So the grand bargain?
ELBARADEI: The grand bargain, of course. And Iran is absolutely needed in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Lebanon and Palestine. So it’s a win/win situation for everybody and I see that everybody understands that. But there is still this animosity, distrust, pride, if you like, dignity, and we have to overcome that.
AMANPOUR: But let me show you – we’ve got these satellite pictures that the whole world has seen about the Qom facility, the one that on the eve of the UN General Assembly President Obama, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Brown say that they’d caught Iran red handed at yet another secret nuclear facility. This is the Revolutionary Guards’ facility outside Qom your investigators, inspectors have been in. What have they found?
ELBARADEI: Well, that facility, of course, should have been reported to us from the day Iran decided to build that facility. So Iran, as I said, has been on the wrong side of the law by not informing us in accordance with our regulation. However, they allowed us to go there. We have got quite a good cooperation.
It’s still a facility under construction. There is no equipment. There is no nuclear material. But to build confidence, they should have told us in advance. Their argument that we could not have tell you in advance because we have been threatened every day that we are going to be bombed, so we had to protect, as they say, passive defense, protect our technology. Nonetheless, that was a violation of their obligation under the agency – IA regulations.
AMANPOUR: Even though they say that their obligation was to tell you a certain number of months before they introduced the materials?
ELBARADEI: That’s their interpretation. We disagree with that. I mean, I think every country, without exception, now have agreed after the Iraq ’91 that they should tell us from the day they decided to build a facility.
AMANPOUR: OK. What did you find? You said, I think, it’s a hole in the mountain. What do you think it’s for?
ELBARADEI: Well, they said it’s for enrichment. It’s for enrichment and to protect their technology. What told me, that this is a passive defense, as they say, in case we were bombed we need to protect our technology. So this was meant to be a – a small enrichment facility.
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Some recent posts about Iran:
- Update: war watch – Iran, 29 September 2009
- Jeremy Hammond explains why Iran’s New Nuclear Site is Much Ado About Nothing”, 30 September 2009
- More about Iran, things you know that might not be so, 3 October 2009
- Stratfor: “Two Leaks and the Deepening Iran Crisis”, 7 October 2009
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