Iran Closer to Weapons Capability in Nuclear Work — Don’t Ignore U.N. Report

Even as the armed conflict between Israel and Gaza understandably dominates the Middle East headlines, the Iran nuclear crisis should not be forgotten.

There is news on that front, and  — for those hoping to slow Iran’s progress toward building nuclear bombs — it’s not good news.

The weapons inspectors of the United Nations, at the International Atomic Energy Agency based in Vienna, do carry out some inspections in Iran.  They also collect evidence, some of it from Israeli and Western intelligence agencies.  And IAEA analysts, while too conservative to point an accusing finger at the Iranians, do seem to believe that there is an unacknowledged, dangerous, military part of Iran’s nuclear program.

The latest IAEA report, issued Friday (Nov. 16) is here:

The Reuters news agency highlights the IAEA’s conclusion that Iran is ready to push forward with uranium enrichment to higher, weapons-grade levels at a site it used to hide from inspectors.  It says the site known as Fordow “worries” the West, because uranium is refined to “a fissile concentration of 20 percent” there — a leap toward weapons-grade uranium.  “The fact that Fordow is buried deep underground also makes it less vulnerable to any air strikes, which Israel has threatened if diplomacy fails to stop Iran acquiring the means to produce nuclear weapons.”

Also quoting the Reuters analysis by Fredrik Dahl: “The IAEA report also said that “extensive activities” at the Parchin military compound – an allusion to suspected Iranian attempts to remove evidence – would seriously undermine an agency investigation into [nuclear explosives work] there.”

Dahl’s concluding paragraph reflects what our book describes as “nuclear ambiguity,” although we were writing about how Israel built a nuclear arsenal but refuses to admit that it has nuclear weapons.  Dahl writes:

“The question of when and how quickly Iran might be able to assemble an atom bomb if it chose to do so is hotly debated, because it could influence any decision by Israel to take military action – a step many fear would blow up into a broader Middle East war that would batter a stumbling global economy.”

The Israeli media hardly mentioned the latest IAEA findings, as the subject of Iran and its nuclear program was submerged by a flood of news regarding the Gaza violence and Hamas missiles striking near Israel’s big cities, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Yossi Melman, as part of his coverage for the Israeli news website Walla, did highlight a nuclear accident inside one Iranian facility.  A quantity of liquid uranium leaked out of a storage tank, spilling the contents onto the floor.  This happened between two IAEA reports, meaning it was this year between August and November.  The U.N. inspectors, who say they confirmed the incident after Iranian workers revealed it, do not comment on any injuries or damage.  

Perhaps surprising is that at least one part of the Iranian media, the English-language Tehran Times, writes about the IAEA report — with only slight editing, so that it won’t be obvious that Iran is hiding its true intentions.

Google News search results indicate that the IAEA’s unfolding conclusions will likely have a major impact on decisions by many countries to tighten sanctions against Iran — and possibly to support military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities:

UN nuclear agency: Iran poised to expand nuke work

The State-Nov 16, 2012
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland would not comment on the IAEAreport but said the IAEA been calling on Iran 
November 17, 2012

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