The latest round of European Union sanctions on Iran were welcomed by both Israel and the United States as helping to continue Tehran’s isolation. The restrictions on Iranian banks, trade and gas exports will increase the pain being felt by ordinary Iranians and worsen the government’s fiscal difficulties. But the latest intelligence about the nuclear program that has generated this dispute is hardly encouraging for those who believe sanctions and diplomacy will avert the danger of an Iranian nuke. Reuters reports that diplomats familiar with the latest reports coming from the International Atomic Energy Agency show that despite the toll sanctions have taken on its economy, the ayatollahs are doubling down on their nuclear gambit.
According to the diplomats, Iran has continued installing new centrifuges at the underground site at Fordow near the holy Shiite Muslim city of Qom in what has become a rapid buildup of its capacity to enrich the uranium needed to produce a bomb. The next IAEA report to be published in November will reveal that the expansion of the enrichment subterranean facility is near completion. As Reuters writes:
It also takes Iran a significant technical step closer to the 90 percent concentration needed for bombs, explaining the West’s growing concern about the Islamic state’s stockpile of the material.
A U.S.-based think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), this month said Iran would currently need at least two to four months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb, and additional time to make the device itself.
Most of the international community heaved a sigh of relief this past month, as it appeared that Israel had backed away from its threat to unilaterally attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. The hope is that now that Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that there are several months left for diplomacy and sanctions to work, the world can safely ignore the problem for a while and hope the Israelis can be forced to give up their agitation about Iran next year. But the latest reports from the IAEA underline Netanyahu’s concerns.
In August, the UN agency noted that Iran had doubled the number of centrifuges at Fordow to 2,140, though Vice President Biden incorrectly stated at his debate last week with Rep. Paul Ryan that Iran wasn’t enriching uranium, the process by which they are rapidly approaching the point where they will have enough material to produce a weapon.
Too many Westerners have been deceived by the economic distress being felt by Iran into thinking the Islamist regime is anywhere close to giving up its nuclear ambition. If the purpose of the sanctions is to actually stop the Iranians rather than to shut up the Israelis, the latest news about IAEA research shows they are failing badly.