The latest signs that Iran is getting closer to achieving its nuclear ambitions will test President Obama’s obvious reluctance to enforce crippling sanctions against the Islamist regime. Reuters reports the Iranians are taking steps to commence nuclear enrichment at a plant inside a mountain.
The activities at the site, a hardened bunker at Fordow, is near the Shiite holy city of Qom, make it harder for the West to pretend Iran is not getting closer to nuclear capability. It also ought to increase pressure on the Obama administration to start using the tools Congress has given it to put pressure on Iran.
According to Reuters:
One Vienna-based diplomat said Iran was believed to have begun in late December feeding uranium gas into centrifuges as part of final preparations to use the machines for enrichment.
“They are close to being able to begin enriching,” the diplomat said. “They have to do some experimenting and refining to get it right.”
An official of another country said he believed Iran was carrying out “passivation,” a technical step involving putting nuclear material into the centrifuges to prepare them to be activated for enrichment. …
Iran is already refining uranium to a fissile purity of 20 percent — far more than the 3.5 percent level usually required to power nuclear energy plants – above ground at another location.
The switch to a site at a mountain is a clear sign Iran is hoping to make it impossible for either the West or Israel to bomb their nuclear plants.
Though Obama’s rhetoric about Iran has been consistently tough, it has not been matched by action. Last week, the president signed a bill setting in motion a ban on transactions with any entity that did business with Iran’s Central Bank. The measure would make an embargo on all oil Iranian sales viable, but Obama’s signing statement indicated that he would use a waiver to avoid enforcement of the legislation. But with each new sign of Iranian progress towards weaponization of their nuclear program, the ability of the administration to go on pretending that diplomacy, rather than seeking a full embargo on Iran, will achieve anything diminishes. As the move at Fordow indicates, the Iranians are moving ahead while the United States dithers.