Commentary Magazine


Topic: International Atomic Energy Agency

The Un-Peace Talks

It would be bad enough if these talks were merely unproductive. But five people (I refuse to adopt the Obami’s counting system, which denies the death of the pregnant woman’s child) have died at the hands of terrorists. Should the talks break down (a strong possibility if Israel does not knuckle under to the demand for the settlement-moratorium extension), the potential for widespread violence is great. Neither in the short or long term do the peace talks offer a realistic chance for peace; quite the opposite.

Meanwhile, efforts to delegitimize Israel continue apace in international bodies. As Eli Lake reports, Israel is bracing for “Black September”:

To start, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to release a report on the Memorial Day flotilla incident in which nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Turkish aid ship seeking to break a blockade of Gaza were killed in a battle with Israeli commandos. Activists in Lebanon have said they are trying to launch another flotilla to challenge the Gaza sea embargo in the coming weeks.

Then the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to issue a follow-up on a report issued in 2009 by Judge Richard Goldstone regarding the Gaza war in late 2008 and early 2009. . . On top of all of this, Turkey — whose foreign minister said Israel’s raid on the aid flotilla last spring was his country’s Sept. 11 — takes its spot as the rotating chairman of the United Nations Security Council.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency later in September, Arab states are expected to press their case for Israel to publicly acknowledge its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

The peace talks afford Obama personally something, but what is Israel getting out of this? Precious little. And meanwhile, the centrifuges are whirling in Tehran.

It would be bad enough if these talks were merely unproductive. But five people (I refuse to adopt the Obami’s counting system, which denies the death of the pregnant woman’s child) have died at the hands of terrorists. Should the talks break down (a strong possibility if Israel does not knuckle under to the demand for the settlement-moratorium extension), the potential for widespread violence is great. Neither in the short or long term do the peace talks offer a realistic chance for peace; quite the opposite.

Meanwhile, efforts to delegitimize Israel continue apace in international bodies. As Eli Lake reports, Israel is bracing for “Black September”:

To start, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to release a report on the Memorial Day flotilla incident in which nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Turkish aid ship seeking to break a blockade of Gaza were killed in a battle with Israeli commandos. Activists in Lebanon have said they are trying to launch another flotilla to challenge the Gaza sea embargo in the coming weeks.

Then the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to issue a follow-up on a report issued in 2009 by Judge Richard Goldstone regarding the Gaza war in late 2008 and early 2009. . . On top of all of this, Turkey — whose foreign minister said Israel’s raid on the aid flotilla last spring was his country’s Sept. 11 — takes its spot as the rotating chairman of the United Nations Security Council.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency later in September, Arab states are expected to press their case for Israel to publicly acknowledge its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

The peace talks afford Obama personally something, but what is Israel getting out of this? Precious little. And meanwhile, the centrifuges are whirling in Tehran.

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U.S. Chooses International Consensus over Israel

Eli Lake reports on the document that the U.S. signed off on last Friday at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference:

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran’s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

Understandably, Bibi is not pleased and issued a statement blasting the document. (“It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. … Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”) So where was the United States, which the administration keeps telling American Jews is there to stand up for Israel in international bodies? Apparently Obama simply caved:

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, “We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.”

Not all that hard, however.

Now, Obama has apparently told Bibi that the secret understanding that has existed between the U.S. and Israel remains in effect.  (“In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.”) But by allowing the document to single out Israel, the U.S. has revealed its priorities — again. A Republican staffer tells Lake that “this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America’s traditional role as protecting Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.”

Bibi will have his time to raise this in his meeting with Obama. And once again, we wonder, where are the Jewish pro-Israel groups? It seems they have ceased to object to much of anything this administration does. So long as the administration doesn’t insult Bibi in public, mouths some platitudes, and continues the kabuki dance of pursuing sanctions (albeit totally ineffective ones), they remain mum.

Eli Lake reports on the document that the U.S. signed off on last Friday at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference:

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran’s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

Understandably, Bibi is not pleased and issued a statement blasting the document. (“It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. … Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”) So where was the United States, which the administration keeps telling American Jews is there to stand up for Israel in international bodies? Apparently Obama simply caved:

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, “We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.”

Not all that hard, however.

Now, Obama has apparently told Bibi that the secret understanding that has existed between the U.S. and Israel remains in effect.  (“In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.”) But by allowing the document to single out Israel, the U.S. has revealed its priorities — again. A Republican staffer tells Lake that “this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America’s traditional role as protecting Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.”

Bibi will have his time to raise this in his meeting with Obama. And once again, we wonder, where are the Jewish pro-Israel groups? It seems they have ceased to object to much of anything this administration does. So long as the administration doesn’t insult Bibi in public, mouths some platitudes, and continues the kabuki dance of pursuing sanctions (albeit totally ineffective ones), they remain mum.

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Nuclear-Free? Oh, Except for Iran

Jack David of the Hudson Institute writes that while a “world free of nuclear weapons has been the wish of many people of goodwill since the dawn of the nuclear age,” there’s no evidence that pursuit of such a pipe dream will make us any safer. He explains:

Proponents of “nuclear zero” sometimes argue that if the U.S. and Russia eliminated their nuclear arsenals, other nations would follow their lead. But where’s the evidence? Since 1991, the U.S. has unilaterally moved toward nuclear disarmament. It reduced the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to fewer than 2,200 from 13,000. It ended nuclear testing. It neither produced nor designed new nuclear warheads. It ended production of fissile material for nuclear warheads. But these actions have not persuaded any nuclear countries to follow suit.

So long as countries threaten to use nuclear arms, others will require a nuclear answer. Even suspicion of nuclear blackmail will precipitate demands for a countervailing deterrent. As a senior official of a Middle East country told me in 2006, “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, someone else in the region will become nuclear capable too.”

Nor is enhanced verification a panacea. (“Did the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections thwart covert and illegal programs in North Korea? In Iran? In Iraq? And when illegal nuclear weapons development is discovered, as in Iran, what U.N. or ‘international community’ response will protect the immediately threatened states?”)

Indeed there is something strange and otherworldly about the announced START deal with Russia at the very moment at which Iran is said to be building multiple nuclear enrichment sites. Does the administration really suppose we are safer because of the START deal or that the mullahs are impressed with our efforts? It defies logic. But it fills the time and tends to distract the media from the abject failure of the Obami to impede the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. David notes, “Tough action to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be a welcome replacement for current threats and rhetoric.” But the Obami don’t have tough action, or really any action that might do that. So they continue the blather on about a nuclear-free world, as they water down the proposed sanctions and rule out regime change and dismiss any military action that would halt the “unacceptable” — the day when the revolutionary Islamic state announces it has joined the club of nuclear powers.

Jack David of the Hudson Institute writes that while a “world free of nuclear weapons has been the wish of many people of goodwill since the dawn of the nuclear age,” there’s no evidence that pursuit of such a pipe dream will make us any safer. He explains:

Proponents of “nuclear zero” sometimes argue that if the U.S. and Russia eliminated their nuclear arsenals, other nations would follow their lead. But where’s the evidence? Since 1991, the U.S. has unilaterally moved toward nuclear disarmament. It reduced the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to fewer than 2,200 from 13,000. It ended nuclear testing. It neither produced nor designed new nuclear warheads. It ended production of fissile material for nuclear warheads. But these actions have not persuaded any nuclear countries to follow suit.

So long as countries threaten to use nuclear arms, others will require a nuclear answer. Even suspicion of nuclear blackmail will precipitate demands for a countervailing deterrent. As a senior official of a Middle East country told me in 2006, “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, someone else in the region will become nuclear capable too.”

Nor is enhanced verification a panacea. (“Did the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections thwart covert and illegal programs in North Korea? In Iran? In Iraq? And when illegal nuclear weapons development is discovered, as in Iran, what U.N. or ‘international community’ response will protect the immediately threatened states?”)

Indeed there is something strange and otherworldly about the announced START deal with Russia at the very moment at which Iran is said to be building multiple nuclear enrichment sites. Does the administration really suppose we are safer because of the START deal or that the mullahs are impressed with our efforts? It defies logic. But it fills the time and tends to distract the media from the abject failure of the Obami to impede the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. David notes, “Tough action to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be a welcome replacement for current threats and rhetoric.” But the Obami don’t have tough action, or really any action that might do that. So they continue the blather on about a nuclear-free world, as they water down the proposed sanctions and rule out regime change and dismiss any military action that would halt the “unacceptable” — the day when the revolutionary Islamic state announces it has joined the club of nuclear powers.

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Any Hope for a Change in Iran Policy?

On Fox News Sunday, the roundtable discussed Obama’s Iran policy. Indeed, none of the participants was exactly sure there is an Iran policy, or if there were, who is making it. What is clear is that we have an opening to do something more productive than the kabuki dance of engagement with the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency report. Bill Kristol inquired:

“If the Obama administration is serious about stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, we now have the authoritative international agency, which in the past has been somewhat hostile to U.S. analysis, now explicitly saying they have, as Susan Rice, our U.N. ambassador, said, been flouting their international obligations. And then the question is simply is the administration going to get serious, or are we going to — is our response to their past flouting of international obligations to — let’s have some more international obligations, let’s spend months getting a meaningless resolution through the Security Council, or let’s spent months even working on very targeted, limited sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard corps, or are we going to be serious about doing gasoline sanctions and insurance sanctions, the two that would really make a big difference on Iran? And are we going to be serious about helping the Green Movement there possibly topple the regime?”

Most who have followed the Obama administration’s excuse-filled year of do-nothingness have a sinking feeling that the Obami won’t push for serious sanctions or make an effort to get behind the Green Movement. The most recent indications (especially the bizarrely counterproductive comments that we won’t consider military force) suggest the Obami are in the mode of doing the least possible so as to not be accused of doing absolutely nothing. But, they are doing nothing that might actually set back the Iranian nuclear program.

Mara Liasson on the roundtable senses we are evolving toward a “much tougher, more confrontational, you know, Hillary Clinton-esque approach to Iran.” Unfortunately, it was Clinton who took the potential for military force off the table, and it has been Clinton talking in circles about engagement. So if we’re now banking on Clinton to devise a robust, regime-change, sanctions-serious alternative to engagement, I think we’re bound to be disappointed. Because, you know, the Hillary Clinton-esque approach, like the James Jones approach, is pretty much the Barack Obama approach. That is and will remain, I would suggest, one of conflict avoidance at all costs. And the cost will be huge if, in fact, Obama presides over an enfeebled policy that allows Iran to go nuclear.

On Fox News Sunday, the roundtable discussed Obama’s Iran policy. Indeed, none of the participants was exactly sure there is an Iran policy, or if there were, who is making it. What is clear is that we have an opening to do something more productive than the kabuki dance of engagement with the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency report. Bill Kristol inquired:

“If the Obama administration is serious about stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, we now have the authoritative international agency, which in the past has been somewhat hostile to U.S. analysis, now explicitly saying they have, as Susan Rice, our U.N. ambassador, said, been flouting their international obligations. And then the question is simply is the administration going to get serious, or are we going to — is our response to their past flouting of international obligations to — let’s have some more international obligations, let’s spend months getting a meaningless resolution through the Security Council, or let’s spent months even working on very targeted, limited sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard corps, or are we going to be serious about doing gasoline sanctions and insurance sanctions, the two that would really make a big difference on Iran? And are we going to be serious about helping the Green Movement there possibly topple the regime?”

Most who have followed the Obama administration’s excuse-filled year of do-nothingness have a sinking feeling that the Obami won’t push for serious sanctions or make an effort to get behind the Green Movement. The most recent indications (especially the bizarrely counterproductive comments that we won’t consider military force) suggest the Obami are in the mode of doing the least possible so as to not be accused of doing absolutely nothing. But, they are doing nothing that might actually set back the Iranian nuclear program.

Mara Liasson on the roundtable senses we are evolving toward a “much tougher, more confrontational, you know, Hillary Clinton-esque approach to Iran.” Unfortunately, it was Clinton who took the potential for military force off the table, and it has been Clinton talking in circles about engagement. So if we’re now banking on Clinton to devise a robust, regime-change, sanctions-serious alternative to engagement, I think we’re bound to be disappointed. Because, you know, the Hillary Clinton-esque approach, like the James Jones approach, is pretty much the Barack Obama approach. That is and will remain, I would suggest, one of conflict avoidance at all costs. And the cost will be huge if, in fact, Obama presides over an enfeebled policy that allows Iran to go nuclear.

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Re: Re: Iran Strike, Out

Abe, we seem to be trailing not only France and Canada on the Iran nuclear issue but also that well-known bastion of neocon aggression, the International Atomic Energy Agency. It appears, unlike the Obami, that the IAEA is willing to concede the obvious:

An International Atomic Energy Agency report expresses worry that Iran may be working on a nuclear warhead, despite a 2007 U.S. intelligence assessment that found the Islamic Republic stopped such work in 2003.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog also confirmed that Iran had indeed enriched uranium to nearly 20 percent, a claim made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during revolutionary anniversary festivities last week but rebuffed by the White House.

“We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree they say they are enriching,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at last Thursday’s daily briefing.

But the IAEA report said that Iran had hit 19.8 percent enrichment on two days last week.

So what’s up here? Could it be that the Obami are — I know it’s hard to imagine — foot-dragging and trying to downplay the urgency of the situation? Might it be that the policy of  do-nothingism only works as long as the public doesn’t get the idea that the mullahs are doing something, namely making steady progress toward a nuclear weapons capability. Once that becomes apparent, the Obami may be called upon to do something.

At this point, the Obami look feckless (more so than usual) and can only float the idea that, yes, they might be revising that now entirely discredited 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. But for now, it seems that’s the extent of their concern.

And it’s not simply on the nuclear threat that the Obami have gone mute. As Kim and Fred Kagan point out, they also appear dangerously indifferent to the growing influence of Iran in Iraq’s nascent democracy. They explain that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and Chairman of the Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani “worked doggedly in 2009 to rebuild the coalition of the three major Iraqi Shiite parties that had run in 2005 as a bloc.”  When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to join, and that effort fell apart, the Iranians orchestrated a ban of some 500 Iraqi candidates, including “some of the most prominent Sunni leaders who had been running on cross-sectarian lists.” The Kagans sum up:

But politics is by no means Tehran’s only sphere of influence in Iraq. The Iranian armed forces violated Iraqi sovereignty on at least two occasions in 2009—U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone in Iraqi territory in March 2009, and Iranian troops ostentatiously seized an Iraqi oil well in December 2009 as the Iraqis completed a round of international oil bids.

Against this continuous Iranian campaign of engagement, intimidation and political machinations, the Obama administration has offered little more than moral support. In practical terms, this administration has done little to implement the nonmilitary aspects of the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) that would signal an American commitment to Iraq.

Thus, the Obami are paralyzed. They show no determination to prevent Iran from moving closer and closer to membership in the nuclear weapons club or to interfere with Iran’s efforts to subvert its neighbor Iraq. Israel and its Arab neighbors have reason to be nervous. The Obama administration seems keen on stopping Israel from striking Iran yet indifferent to any action that would halt the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran bent on regional hegemony and destruction of the Jewish state. One wonders why U.S. lawmakers and Jewish groups aren’t more concerned as we sleepwalk into a world with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Abe, we seem to be trailing not only France and Canada on the Iran nuclear issue but also that well-known bastion of neocon aggression, the International Atomic Energy Agency. It appears, unlike the Obami, that the IAEA is willing to concede the obvious:

An International Atomic Energy Agency report expresses worry that Iran may be working on a nuclear warhead, despite a 2007 U.S. intelligence assessment that found the Islamic Republic stopped such work in 2003.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog also confirmed that Iran had indeed enriched uranium to nearly 20 percent, a claim made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during revolutionary anniversary festivities last week but rebuffed by the White House.

“We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree they say they are enriching,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at last Thursday’s daily briefing.

But the IAEA report said that Iran had hit 19.8 percent enrichment on two days last week.

So what’s up here? Could it be that the Obami are — I know it’s hard to imagine — foot-dragging and trying to downplay the urgency of the situation? Might it be that the policy of  do-nothingism only works as long as the public doesn’t get the idea that the mullahs are doing something, namely making steady progress toward a nuclear weapons capability. Once that becomes apparent, the Obami may be called upon to do something.

At this point, the Obami look feckless (more so than usual) and can only float the idea that, yes, they might be revising that now entirely discredited 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. But for now, it seems that’s the extent of their concern.

And it’s not simply on the nuclear threat that the Obami have gone mute. As Kim and Fred Kagan point out, they also appear dangerously indifferent to the growing influence of Iran in Iraq’s nascent democracy. They explain that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and Chairman of the Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani “worked doggedly in 2009 to rebuild the coalition of the three major Iraqi Shiite parties that had run in 2005 as a bloc.”  When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to join, and that effort fell apart, the Iranians orchestrated a ban of some 500 Iraqi candidates, including “some of the most prominent Sunni leaders who had been running on cross-sectarian lists.” The Kagans sum up:

But politics is by no means Tehran’s only sphere of influence in Iraq. The Iranian armed forces violated Iraqi sovereignty on at least two occasions in 2009—U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone in Iraqi territory in March 2009, and Iranian troops ostentatiously seized an Iraqi oil well in December 2009 as the Iraqis completed a round of international oil bids.

Against this continuous Iranian campaign of engagement, intimidation and political machinations, the Obama administration has offered little more than moral support. In practical terms, this administration has done little to implement the nonmilitary aspects of the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) that would signal an American commitment to Iraq.

Thus, the Obami are paralyzed. They show no determination to prevent Iran from moving closer and closer to membership in the nuclear weapons club or to interfere with Iran’s efforts to subvert its neighbor Iraq. Israel and its Arab neighbors have reason to be nervous. The Obama administration seems keen on stopping Israel from striking Iran yet indifferent to any action that would halt the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran bent on regional hegemony and destruction of the Jewish state. One wonders why U.S. lawmakers and Jewish groups aren’t more concerned as we sleepwalk into a world with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

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The Engagement That Never Ends

You knew this was coming:

A long-dormant proposal to remove the bulk of Iran’s enriched uranium from the Islamic republic appeared to be revived Tuesday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran had “no problem” with a deal initially brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The deal, which Iran formally rejected weeks ago, would swap low-enriched uranium for fuel for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes. “If we allow them to take it, there is no problem,” Ahmadinejad said on state TV. “We sign a contract to give 3.5 percent enriched uranium and receive 20 percent enriched one after four or five months.”

The mullahs have long since figured out that they have willing partners on the other side of the table ready, desperate in fact, to continue the charade of engagement. And quite predictably, the Obami revealed once again that they are eager to hold off the building domestic pressure for sanctions and stem the rising tide of disgust with their year-long quest to talk the mullahs out of their nukes. We are told the administration reacted “cautiously”:

“There is a still a deal on the table. The question is: Is he prepared to say yes,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. He noted that when Iranian diplomats met with U.S. officials in Geneva in October, “they said yes, and then they said no.”

Crowley said he was “unaware of a formal response” by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency, changing its stance. “If Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments reflect an updated Iranian position, we look forward to Iran informing the IAEA,” said White House spokesman Mike Hammer.

Surprised that the Obami are willing to be trifled with some more? You shouldn’t be. Recall that the crippling sanctions they promised us in the event that engagement didn’t work were being unilaterally negotiated downward as Hillary Clinton and others dutifully explained that their aim was to “leave the door open.” Open for what? More flimflammery by the Iranian regime, of course. Read More

You knew this was coming:

A long-dormant proposal to remove the bulk of Iran’s enriched uranium from the Islamic republic appeared to be revived Tuesday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran had “no problem” with a deal initially brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The deal, which Iran formally rejected weeks ago, would swap low-enriched uranium for fuel for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes. “If we allow them to take it, there is no problem,” Ahmadinejad said on state TV. “We sign a contract to give 3.5 percent enriched uranium and receive 20 percent enriched one after four or five months.”

The mullahs have long since figured out that they have willing partners on the other side of the table ready, desperate in fact, to continue the charade of engagement. And quite predictably, the Obami revealed once again that they are eager to hold off the building domestic pressure for sanctions and stem the rising tide of disgust with their year-long quest to talk the mullahs out of their nukes. We are told the administration reacted “cautiously”:

“There is a still a deal on the table. The question is: Is he prepared to say yes,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. He noted that when Iranian diplomats met with U.S. officials in Geneva in October, “they said yes, and then they said no.”

Crowley said he was “unaware of a formal response” by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency, changing its stance. “If Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments reflect an updated Iranian position, we look forward to Iran informing the IAEA,” said White House spokesman Mike Hammer.

Surprised that the Obami are willing to be trifled with some more? You shouldn’t be. Recall that the crippling sanctions they promised us in the event that engagement didn’t work were being unilaterally negotiated downward as Hillary Clinton and others dutifully explained that their aim was to “leave the door open.” Open for what? More flimflammery by the Iranian regime, of course.

Meanwhile, the regime continues its murderous rule. On the same day they were luring the Obama team back to the table, we got a reminder of just who it is we are dealing with:

The [Iranian] president spoke about nuclear plans on the same day Iran said it would soon hang nine more rioters over unrest that erupted after a disputed presidential vote in June last year. Opposition protesters said the poll was rigged.

“Nine others will be hanged soon. The nine, and the two who were hanged on Thursday, were surely arrested in the recent riots and had links to anti-revolutionary groups,” said senior judiciary official Ebrahim Raisi, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The two men hanged last week were among 11 people sentenced to death on charges including “waging war against God.”

The June election gave Ahmadinejad a second term, but sparked the worst internal crisis in the Islamic Republic’s history. The government denied any fraud in the voting.

Opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, said the repression showed the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah “had not achieved its goals.”

“Filling the prisons and brutally killing protesters show that the root of … dictatorship remain from the monarchist era,” he said on his Kalemeh website.

Well, that might suggest to practioners of “realism” that the mullahs are not the sort to give up their nukes and that the latest offer is just the sort of distraction one might use to keep the West at bay. But wouldn’t regime change make more sense? Joe Biden on MSNBC had this to say on the subject: “The people of Iran are thinking about, the very people marching, they’re thinking about regime change.” Translation: they are on their own.

The Obami, you see, have a new lease on engagement, another excuse (as if they needed more) to refrain from taking action that might imperil the Iranian regime and deny it the international breathing room it craves. Oh, and are we going to be “bearing witness” to the nine upcoming hangings? No word yet. We eagerly await the next heartfelt statement of sympathy from Foggy Bottom on the deaths of those who can no longer count on the U.S. to aid in the fight for democracy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.'”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.'”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

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More Revelations from the IAEA Report

Among the treasure trove to be found in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports on Iran and Syria, there are two slightly underreported elements. Inspectors stumbled upon 600 “50-litre drums” of heavy water at the Isfahan conversion facility. As for Syria, the Syrians explained traces of anthropogenic natural uranium as deriving from “domestically produced yellowcake” and “imported, but previously undeclared, commercial uranyl nitrate.”

To recap: Iran has undeclared heavy water, and Syria has undeclared commercial uranyl nitrate.

Heavy water is needed to bypass uranium enrichment if one wants to build nuclear weapons. It is not produced widely — there are only a few countries in the world that produce and sell heavy water. Uranyl Nitrate is a substance needed in the process to convert natural uranium to green salt, a precursor of UF6. In short, it is a necessary component in the enrichment process and one that NPT signatories are meant to declare to the IAEA.

Taken together, the two reports make an astounding revelation: both Iran and Syria have been procuring material for nuclear-related activities without reporting it to the IAEA. Not a shocker for readers of this blog — but certainly one more piece of incriminating evidence about the two programs both countries have worked so hard to pursue and to conceal from the rest of the world.

Among the treasure trove to be found in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports on Iran and Syria, there are two slightly underreported elements. Inspectors stumbled upon 600 “50-litre drums” of heavy water at the Isfahan conversion facility. As for Syria, the Syrians explained traces of anthropogenic natural uranium as deriving from “domestically produced yellowcake” and “imported, but previously undeclared, commercial uranyl nitrate.”

To recap: Iran has undeclared heavy water, and Syria has undeclared commercial uranyl nitrate.

Heavy water is needed to bypass uranium enrichment if one wants to build nuclear weapons. It is not produced widely — there are only a few countries in the world that produce and sell heavy water. Uranyl Nitrate is a substance needed in the process to convert natural uranium to green salt, a precursor of UF6. In short, it is a necessary component in the enrichment process and one that NPT signatories are meant to declare to the IAEA.

Taken together, the two reports make an astounding revelation: both Iran and Syria have been procuring material for nuclear-related activities without reporting it to the IAEA. Not a shocker for readers of this blog — but certainly one more piece of incriminating evidence about the two programs both countries have worked so hard to pursue and to conceal from the rest of the world.

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Beyond Farce

Thank goodness we have a president who is willing to “listen” to foreign governments, to “create space” for conflict resolution, to break America’s habit of “dictating” to those with whom it disagrees, to invite international institutions to “share” in the process of mitigating the world’s dangers. Without persistent Dr. Phil-diplomacy, we never could have achieved this:

United Nations and Iranian officials have been secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for co-operation with UN inspectors.

According to a draft document seen by The Times, the 13-point agreement was drawn up in September by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an effort to break the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme before he stands down at the end of this month.

Forget the cooperation of Russia; forget the cooperation of Iran. The most benign and internationally beloved president in modern history can’t keep the intermediary bodies from secretly plotting against us. It’s useful to keep today’s revelation in mind when people go on about how George W. Bush spurned international bodies or about how the U.S. can’t be the world’s police. Perhaps Obama will get tough on the IAEA and register one of his bone-chilling warnings about his patience not being endless.

There are a slew of synonyms for the kind of popularity Obama has conferred upon America: adoration, affection, favor, and so on. But there is no usable replacement for respect. Respect comes when you draw a line. For this administration, there is no line. The uncooperativeness (forget evil) of bad actors never gets fully recognized. Because there is no line, the administration’s claims of progress are unfalsifiable. That is, they can never be disproved. Everything is endlessly encouraging.

Hey, you can’t blame ElBaradei for wanting to secure his legacy. You know what they say: You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many Nobel Peace Prizes.

Thank goodness we have a president who is willing to “listen” to foreign governments, to “create space” for conflict resolution, to break America’s habit of “dictating” to those with whom it disagrees, to invite international institutions to “share” in the process of mitigating the world’s dangers. Without persistent Dr. Phil-diplomacy, we never could have achieved this:

United Nations and Iranian officials have been secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for co-operation with UN inspectors.

According to a draft document seen by The Times, the 13-point agreement was drawn up in September by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an effort to break the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme before he stands down at the end of this month.

Forget the cooperation of Russia; forget the cooperation of Iran. The most benign and internationally beloved president in modern history can’t keep the intermediary bodies from secretly plotting against us. It’s useful to keep today’s revelation in mind when people go on about how George W. Bush spurned international bodies or about how the U.S. can’t be the world’s police. Perhaps Obama will get tough on the IAEA and register one of his bone-chilling warnings about his patience not being endless.

There are a slew of synonyms for the kind of popularity Obama has conferred upon America: adoration, affection, favor, and so on. But there is no usable replacement for respect. Respect comes when you draw a line. For this administration, there is no line. The uncooperativeness (forget evil) of bad actors never gets fully recognized. Because there is no line, the administration’s claims of progress are unfalsifiable. That is, they can never be disproved. Everything is endlessly encouraging.

Hey, you can’t blame ElBaradei for wanting to secure his legacy. You know what they say: You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many Nobel Peace Prizes.

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How the IAEA Encourages Proliferation

The International Atomic Energy Agency is, as Jonathan noted, deeply disturbed by its latest findings on Iran. It is also deeply disturbed by its latest findings on Syria, which it detailed in another report released this week. Syria’s explanation of the uranium traces found at a Damascus research reactor did not fit the facts, the report said, nor did these traces match Syria’s declared uranium inventory. Moreover, Syria is still refusing IAEA requests for both a return visit to Dair Alzour, the site Israel bombed in September 2007, and initial visits to three military sites whose appearance was altered after inspectors asked to see them.

“Essentially, no progress has been made since the last report to clarify any of the outstanding issues,” the agency concluded.

The real mystery, however, is why the IAEA seems to find this behavior eternally surprising — because its own behavior positively demands such stonewalling.

The IAEA has been investigating Syria for more than two years now. During this time, it has issued numerous reports expressing its concern over suspicious findings that Damascus failed to adequately explain and over Syria’s refusal to let it make the inspections necessary to answer its questions. Yet it has refused to refer the case to the Security Council for sanctions, because, says agency director Mohamed ElBaradei, there is no proof of Syrian wrongdoing.

Well, of course there isn’t. That’s the whole point of Syria’s stonewalling — to prevent the agency from getting such proof!

Damascus, needless to say, is merely copying the lessons learned from the agency’s handling of Iran. After discovering in 2003 that Tehran had been lying about its nuclear program for 18 years, the agency spent the next three years refusing to turn the file over to the Security Council, saying there was no proof Iran’s secret nuclear program was aimed at producing weapons. And when the case finally did reach the Security Council, ElBaradei lobbied vehemently against sanctions, citing the lack of a “smoking gun” that would justify punishment.

Thus all Iran had to do was ensure that there never would be a smoking gun — by steadfastly refusing to comply with inspectors’ requests.

ElBaradei thereby made noncooperation the optimum strategy. Had either Syria or Iran cooperated, the agency might have obtained sufficient evidence to justify severe sanctions. But as long as they refuse to cooperate, the agency has little chance of obtaining such proof, ensuring that any repercussions will be mild. Therefore, they are free to develop nuclear weapons with impunity.

To be effective, IAEA policy would have to be the exact opposite — one of imposing stringent penalties for noncooperation, to encourage suspect countries to “come clean” and prove their innocence. And that, of course, would require suspect regimes to actually be innocent, creating a strong disincentive to secret weapons programs.

In short, under ElBaradei, the IAEA has brilliantly hit on the strategy most likely to facilitate nuclear proliferation. Is it any wonder he and the agency won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005?

The International Atomic Energy Agency is, as Jonathan noted, deeply disturbed by its latest findings on Iran. It is also deeply disturbed by its latest findings on Syria, which it detailed in another report released this week. Syria’s explanation of the uranium traces found at a Damascus research reactor did not fit the facts, the report said, nor did these traces match Syria’s declared uranium inventory. Moreover, Syria is still refusing IAEA requests for both a return visit to Dair Alzour, the site Israel bombed in September 2007, and initial visits to three military sites whose appearance was altered after inspectors asked to see them.

“Essentially, no progress has been made since the last report to clarify any of the outstanding issues,” the agency concluded.

The real mystery, however, is why the IAEA seems to find this behavior eternally surprising — because its own behavior positively demands such stonewalling.

The IAEA has been investigating Syria for more than two years now. During this time, it has issued numerous reports expressing its concern over suspicious findings that Damascus failed to adequately explain and over Syria’s refusal to let it make the inspections necessary to answer its questions. Yet it has refused to refer the case to the Security Council for sanctions, because, says agency director Mohamed ElBaradei, there is no proof of Syrian wrongdoing.

Well, of course there isn’t. That’s the whole point of Syria’s stonewalling — to prevent the agency from getting such proof!

Damascus, needless to say, is merely copying the lessons learned from the agency’s handling of Iran. After discovering in 2003 that Tehran had been lying about its nuclear program for 18 years, the agency spent the next three years refusing to turn the file over to the Security Council, saying there was no proof Iran’s secret nuclear program was aimed at producing weapons. And when the case finally did reach the Security Council, ElBaradei lobbied vehemently against sanctions, citing the lack of a “smoking gun” that would justify punishment.

Thus all Iran had to do was ensure that there never would be a smoking gun — by steadfastly refusing to comply with inspectors’ requests.

ElBaradei thereby made noncooperation the optimum strategy. Had either Syria or Iran cooperated, the agency might have obtained sufficient evidence to justify severe sanctions. But as long as they refuse to cooperate, the agency has little chance of obtaining such proof, ensuring that any repercussions will be mild. Therefore, they are free to develop nuclear weapons with impunity.

To be effective, IAEA policy would have to be the exact opposite — one of imposing stringent penalties for noncooperation, to encourage suspect countries to “come clean” and prove their innocence. And that, of course, would require suspect regimes to actually be innocent, creating a strong disincentive to secret weapons programs.

In short, under ElBaradei, the IAEA has brilliantly hit on the strategy most likely to facilitate nuclear proliferation. Is it any wonder he and the agency won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005?

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IAEA Inspectors: We’re Shocked, Shocked at Iranian Duplicity

The findings of a report released today from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors about their survey of a previously secret underground nuclear-enrichment plant have apparently led the group to suspect that Iran may be concealing other nuclear factories. Surprise. Surprise. The unfinished facility near the holy city of Qom was built to accommodate enough centrifuges to produce a couple of nuclear weapons a year, but is, in fact, too small to be useful for civilian uses of nuclear power. That gives the lie to Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is for only peaceful intents, but it’s not as if anyone, either in Iran or elsewhere, actually believed that to begin with. But the point of the report is that this newly discovered plant only makes sense if it were part of a network of covert nuclear facilities that could feed it with “raw nuclear fuel.”

But anyone who is shocked about any of this hasn’t been paying attention to this issue for years. Only two years after the United States issued a ridiculous National Intelligence Estimate denying the reality of the Iranian program, even international bodies like the IAEA are no longer prepared to hedge their bets about Iranian intentions. The reality of the imminence of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied any longer, even by those who would prefer to ignore the peril this development poses to U.S. strategic interests as well as world peace. Experts differ as to the exact time line, but there’s little doubt that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be in a position to announce that an Iranian nuclear device will be ready sometime within the next few years at the latest.

This also brings into perspective President Obama’s diplomacy on Iran. Having both campaigned on negotiations with Tehran without preconditions and downplayed the human-rights disaster in that country in the wake of a stolen presidential election, Obama seemed to believe he could make a deal with the ayatollahs. But the Iranians rightly sensed weakness and have exploited Obama’s desire for talks at any price. They negotiated a pact to transport their enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping and then renounced it within weeks without an explanation and have refused Obama’s desperate pleas for them to consider an even sweeter deal. With egg left on his face, Obama has been forced to go cap in hand to Russia and now China to beg them for support for sanctions on the recalcitrant Iranians. The Russians played along, to a certain extent, by expressing their unhappiness with Iran. But you have to forget everything we’ve learned about Vladimir Putin and his foreign-policy priorities in order to believe that the Russians will repudiate their Iranian trading partners to accommodate a prime U.S. strategic interest. Optimism about Chinese help is equally fantastic.

Obama’s amateur diplomacy of apologies and bows can take the U.S. just so far when it comes to manufacturing an international coalition behind the sorts of sanctions that could bring Iran to its knees. Having gambled on a losing diplomatic hand with Iran, the president is now scrambling to resurrect a policy that is clearly sinking under the weight of his naïveté. The latest UN report illustrates just how fast the clock is ticking toward a confrontation that the president seems ill equipped to handle.

The findings of a report released today from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors about their survey of a previously secret underground nuclear-enrichment plant have apparently led the group to suspect that Iran may be concealing other nuclear factories. Surprise. Surprise. The unfinished facility near the holy city of Qom was built to accommodate enough centrifuges to produce a couple of nuclear weapons a year, but is, in fact, too small to be useful for civilian uses of nuclear power. That gives the lie to Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is for only peaceful intents, but it’s not as if anyone, either in Iran or elsewhere, actually believed that to begin with. But the point of the report is that this newly discovered plant only makes sense if it were part of a network of covert nuclear facilities that could feed it with “raw nuclear fuel.”

But anyone who is shocked about any of this hasn’t been paying attention to this issue for years. Only two years after the United States issued a ridiculous National Intelligence Estimate denying the reality of the Iranian program, even international bodies like the IAEA are no longer prepared to hedge their bets about Iranian intentions. The reality of the imminence of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied any longer, even by those who would prefer to ignore the peril this development poses to U.S. strategic interests as well as world peace. Experts differ as to the exact time line, but there’s little doubt that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be in a position to announce that an Iranian nuclear device will be ready sometime within the next few years at the latest.

This also brings into perspective President Obama’s diplomacy on Iran. Having both campaigned on negotiations with Tehran without preconditions and downplayed the human-rights disaster in that country in the wake of a stolen presidential election, Obama seemed to believe he could make a deal with the ayatollahs. But the Iranians rightly sensed weakness and have exploited Obama’s desire for talks at any price. They negotiated a pact to transport their enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping and then renounced it within weeks without an explanation and have refused Obama’s desperate pleas for them to consider an even sweeter deal. With egg left on his face, Obama has been forced to go cap in hand to Russia and now China to beg them for support for sanctions on the recalcitrant Iranians. The Russians played along, to a certain extent, by expressing their unhappiness with Iran. But you have to forget everything we’ve learned about Vladimir Putin and his foreign-policy priorities in order to believe that the Russians will repudiate their Iranian trading partners to accommodate a prime U.S. strategic interest. Optimism about Chinese help is equally fantastic.

Obama’s amateur diplomacy of apologies and bows can take the U.S. just so far when it comes to manufacturing an international coalition behind the sorts of sanctions that could bring Iran to its knees. Having gambled on a losing diplomatic hand with Iran, the president is now scrambling to resurrect a policy that is clearly sinking under the weight of his naïveté. The latest UN report illustrates just how fast the clock is ticking toward a confrontation that the president seems ill equipped to handle.

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A New Iranian Leader, A More Dangerous Iran

Yesterday, Ali Larijani was elected speaker of the Iranian parliament. In his new perch, the country’s former chief nuclear negotiator is bound to cause grief for his old rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The vote on Wednesday was not even close: Larijani walked away with all but 31 of the 263 votes cast as he defeated the incumbent, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. The margin of victory signals that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supported Larijani, and with the backing of the clerics, the new speaker will be able to remake the political landscape in Tehran. So expect a period of turbulence in the internal workings of the Islamic Republic. There is already widespread discontent with Ahmadinejad’s policies–especially the economic ones–and Larijani now has the means to stir up trouble. The country, at this moment, has two strong operators pitted against each other in the run up to next June’s presidential elections.

What does this mean for us? The new speaker is by far the more pragmatic of the pair. His emergence, however, is not good for the international community. Larijani’s election is bound to result in added pressure on Washington–coming from Russia, China, and Europe, not to mention the “nonaligned” states–to begin new diplomatic initiatives to see if the Iranians will stop their enrichment of uranium. Yet Larijani is just as hardline as Ahmadinejad when it comes to this issue (just moments after his swearing in, he threatened to cut back Tehran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency).

Global leaders cannot agree that Iran poses a threat even when its president continually speaks about worldwide conflagration and the destruction of the “stinking corpse” that is Israel. There will certainly be even less unity now that it appears that Khamenei has endorsed a more moderate-sounding politician. Iran is still the threat today that it was in the beginning of this week. The only thing that is different is that at this time, with a more capable leader asserting himself, the country will be better able to achieve dangerous goals.

Yesterday, Ali Larijani was elected speaker of the Iranian parliament. In his new perch, the country’s former chief nuclear negotiator is bound to cause grief for his old rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The vote on Wednesday was not even close: Larijani walked away with all but 31 of the 263 votes cast as he defeated the incumbent, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. The margin of victory signals that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supported Larijani, and with the backing of the clerics, the new speaker will be able to remake the political landscape in Tehran. So expect a period of turbulence in the internal workings of the Islamic Republic. There is already widespread discontent with Ahmadinejad’s policies–especially the economic ones–and Larijani now has the means to stir up trouble. The country, at this moment, has two strong operators pitted against each other in the run up to next June’s presidential elections.

What does this mean for us? The new speaker is by far the more pragmatic of the pair. His emergence, however, is not good for the international community. Larijani’s election is bound to result in added pressure on Washington–coming from Russia, China, and Europe, not to mention the “nonaligned” states–to begin new diplomatic initiatives to see if the Iranians will stop their enrichment of uranium. Yet Larijani is just as hardline as Ahmadinejad when it comes to this issue (just moments after his swearing in, he threatened to cut back Tehran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency).

Global leaders cannot agree that Iran poses a threat even when its president continually speaks about worldwide conflagration and the destruction of the “stinking corpse” that is Israel. There will certainly be even less unity now that it appears that Khamenei has endorsed a more moderate-sounding politician. Iran is still the threat today that it was in the beginning of this week. The only thing that is different is that at this time, with a more capable leader asserting himself, the country will be better able to achieve dangerous goals.

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Iran Fails Another Test

IAEA director general Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, interviewed by Newsweek in October 2007 a few weeks after he negotiated a workplan with Iran on its nuclear program, said that

[i]f Iran were to prove that it was using this period for delaying tactics and it was not really acting in good faith, then, obviously, nobody–nobody–will come to its support when people call for more sanctions or for punitive measures. That is a point that has been made very clear to them by everybody, including myself. If we come [back] with a negative report after three months, I don’t see that anybody will come and say, well, give them another chance.

ElBaradei proposed this as a “litmus test.” This test–as all diplomatic tests should–had a timeline and a deadline: three months. Today, nearly nine months later, a Washington Post editorial notes that Iran has failed.

Will El Baradei hold to the resolution he proposed in 2007? Hard to believe. After all, Iran was given deadlines aplenty by the international community to come clean on its nuclear cover-up. And each time, deadlines came and went, with the international community scrambling for months afterwards to find a new consensus to pressure Iran once again. This was true of the June 6, 2006 incentives that Iran was offered in exchange for suspending enrichment. This was true of the August 31, 2006 deadline set by Security Council Resolution 1696 as well. And it is true today of the workplan that El Baradei negotiated in October 2007. Every time, the IAEA and the Security Council have shown that their deadlines are not serious. Now, unsurprisingly, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana is about to embark on a trip to Tehran, where he will offer Iran a more attractive incentive package than the one offered two years ago.

The New York Times hopes that this package will be more enticing than the previous one: “Before Mr. Solana goes, the major powers need to come up with a more compelling list of rewards and punishments.” But it’s the list of punishments that needs the most work from the international community. Otherwise, Tehran will never even begin to take the West seriously.

IAEA director general Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, interviewed by Newsweek in October 2007 a few weeks after he negotiated a workplan with Iran on its nuclear program, said that

[i]f Iran were to prove that it was using this period for delaying tactics and it was not really acting in good faith, then, obviously, nobody–nobody–will come to its support when people call for more sanctions or for punitive measures. That is a point that has been made very clear to them by everybody, including myself. If we come [back] with a negative report after three months, I don’t see that anybody will come and say, well, give them another chance.

ElBaradei proposed this as a “litmus test.” This test–as all diplomatic tests should–had a timeline and a deadline: three months. Today, nearly nine months later, a Washington Post editorial notes that Iran has failed.

Will El Baradei hold to the resolution he proposed in 2007? Hard to believe. After all, Iran was given deadlines aplenty by the international community to come clean on its nuclear cover-up. And each time, deadlines came and went, with the international community scrambling for months afterwards to find a new consensus to pressure Iran once again. This was true of the June 6, 2006 incentives that Iran was offered in exchange for suspending enrichment. This was true of the August 31, 2006 deadline set by Security Council Resolution 1696 as well. And it is true today of the workplan that El Baradei negotiated in October 2007. Every time, the IAEA and the Security Council have shown that their deadlines are not serious. Now, unsurprisingly, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana is about to embark on a trip to Tehran, where he will offer Iran a more attractive incentive package than the one offered two years ago.

The New York Times hopes that this package will be more enticing than the previous one: “Before Mr. Solana goes, the major powers need to come up with a more compelling list of rewards and punishments.” But it’s the list of punishments that needs the most work from the international community. Otherwise, Tehran will never even begin to take the West seriously.

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Fool Me Once…

On September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor at al Kibar. Writing about the raid in the New Yorker on February 11, 2008, Seymour Hersh cast doubt on the contention that it was in fact a nuclear facility:

in three months of reporting for this article, I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria. It is possible that Israel conveyed intelligence directly to senior members of the Bush Administration, without it being vetted by intelligence agencies. (This process, known as “stovepiping,” overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.) But Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations group responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said, “Our experts who have carefully analyzed the satellite imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.”

One of Hersh’s sources was Barack Obama’s non-proliferation adviser, Joseph Cirincione, who told Hersh flatly that

Syria does not have the technical, industrial, or financial ability to support a nuclear-weapons program. I’ve been following this issue for fifteen years, and every once in a while a suspicion arises and we investigate and there’s nothing.

In the face of unequivocal evidence, Cirincione has acknowledged his error, saying “no one bats 1000.” That of course is true. And the difficulty of assessing what Syria was up to was certainly compounded by Syrian deception. David Albright’s outfit, the Institute for Science and International Security, has put out an important study (complete with photographs) of the “extraordinary camouflage” methods the Syrians employed to disguise the facility.

In assessing the track record of an expert like Cirincione, let’s also keep in mind that tight secrecy, camouflage, and deception in nuclear affairs are nothing new. On the eve of the first Gulf war, thanks to secrecy, the United States was almost completely in the dark about the far-reaching scope of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.

In the run-up to the second Gulf war, the problem was reversed. The intelligence community persuaded itself that Saddam had an active nuclear program when in fact he had none.

One would expect experts to draw appropriate lessons from both experiences. First among them is that humility and a measure of self-doubt are important when trying to penetrate other countries’ secrets.

Such qualities were conspicuously absent in Cirincione’s analysis of al Kibar: “There was and is no nuclear-weapons threat from Syria. This is all political,” is what he categorically told Hersh.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

On September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor at al Kibar. Writing about the raid in the New Yorker on February 11, 2008, Seymour Hersh cast doubt on the contention that it was in fact a nuclear facility:

in three months of reporting for this article, I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria. It is possible that Israel conveyed intelligence directly to senior members of the Bush Administration, without it being vetted by intelligence agencies. (This process, known as “stovepiping,” overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.) But Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations group responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said, “Our experts who have carefully analyzed the satellite imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.”

One of Hersh’s sources was Barack Obama’s non-proliferation adviser, Joseph Cirincione, who told Hersh flatly that

Syria does not have the technical, industrial, or financial ability to support a nuclear-weapons program. I’ve been following this issue for fifteen years, and every once in a while a suspicion arises and we investigate and there’s nothing.

In the face of unequivocal evidence, Cirincione has acknowledged his error, saying “no one bats 1000.” That of course is true. And the difficulty of assessing what Syria was up to was certainly compounded by Syrian deception. David Albright’s outfit, the Institute for Science and International Security, has put out an important study (complete with photographs) of the “extraordinary camouflage” methods the Syrians employed to disguise the facility.

In assessing the track record of an expert like Cirincione, let’s also keep in mind that tight secrecy, camouflage, and deception in nuclear affairs are nothing new. On the eve of the first Gulf war, thanks to secrecy, the United States was almost completely in the dark about the far-reaching scope of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.

In the run-up to the second Gulf war, the problem was reversed. The intelligence community persuaded itself that Saddam had an active nuclear program when in fact he had none.

One would expect experts to draw appropriate lessons from both experiences. First among them is that humility and a measure of self-doubt are important when trying to penetrate other countries’ secrets.

Such qualities were conspicuously absent in Cirincione’s analysis of al Kibar: “There was and is no nuclear-weapons threat from Syria. This is all political,” is what he categorically told Hersh.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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Iran Shouts “Nuclear Apartheid”

On Monday, Iran’s Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Tehran would not submit to extensive U.N. inspections of its nuclear program while Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran is a signatory to the NPT, as the global pact is called, and, as such, is not permitted to build or hold nuclear weapons. Israel, which maintains a small arsenal of nukes, has not joined the NPT. Citing “nuclear apartheid,” the Iranian diplomat said

The existing double standard shall not be tolerated anymore by non-nuclear-weapon states.

Tehran’s announcement should surprise no one. North Korea raised the nuclear apartheid argument earlier this decade to justify its serial violations of the NPT. After International Atomic Energy Agency inspections revealed that Pyongyang had been secretly experimenting with plutonium, it announced its withdrawal from the treaty in January 2003. There have been reports that North Koreans have been teaching Iranians how to avoid nuclear inspections and deal with the international community. Whether these stories are true or not, Tehran is now obviously following North Korea’s playbook.

So look for Tehran to talk about Israel again and again. There will always be questions about Israel, India, and Pakistan, the three nuclear powers that never signed the NPT. And there are broader fairness issues about the discriminatory nature of the treaty, which permits five nations to possess nukes and prohibits 185 others from doing so. Yet the United States should remind the international community that Iran, while it remains a nuclear criminal, has no standing to raise them.

The mullahs appear to be laying the groundwork for ditching the NPT. “What is the problem with withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?” asked Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the leader of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, in 2003. “North Korea withdrew from the treaty.”

So we should start laying groundwork of our own. We need to tell Iran it has no right to withdraw from the NPT until it first complies with its treaty obligations and all the demands of the Security Council that it suspend the enrichment of uranium. The sooner Washington announces this–along with its intentions to use force to back up its demands–the better.

On Monday, Iran’s Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Tehran would not submit to extensive U.N. inspections of its nuclear program while Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran is a signatory to the NPT, as the global pact is called, and, as such, is not permitted to build or hold nuclear weapons. Israel, which maintains a small arsenal of nukes, has not joined the NPT. Citing “nuclear apartheid,” the Iranian diplomat said

The existing double standard shall not be tolerated anymore by non-nuclear-weapon states.

Tehran’s announcement should surprise no one. North Korea raised the nuclear apartheid argument earlier this decade to justify its serial violations of the NPT. After International Atomic Energy Agency inspections revealed that Pyongyang had been secretly experimenting with plutonium, it announced its withdrawal from the treaty in January 2003. There have been reports that North Koreans have been teaching Iranians how to avoid nuclear inspections and deal with the international community. Whether these stories are true or not, Tehran is now obviously following North Korea’s playbook.

So look for Tehran to talk about Israel again and again. There will always be questions about Israel, India, and Pakistan, the three nuclear powers that never signed the NPT. And there are broader fairness issues about the discriminatory nature of the treaty, which permits five nations to possess nukes and prohibits 185 others from doing so. Yet the United States should remind the international community that Iran, while it remains a nuclear criminal, has no standing to raise them.

The mullahs appear to be laying the groundwork for ditching the NPT. “What is the problem with withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?” asked Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the leader of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, in 2003. “North Korea withdrew from the treaty.”

So we should start laying groundwork of our own. We need to tell Iran it has no right to withdraw from the NPT until it first complies with its treaty obligations and all the demands of the Security Council that it suspend the enrichment of uranium. The sooner Washington announces this–along with its intentions to use force to back up its demands–the better.

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Giving Away the (Nuclear) Store

A Reuters report states that the Bush administration will, within a month, send to Congress a pact on civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia. The agreement will take effect within 90 legislative days unless Congress votes it down. The President discussed the arrangement with Vladimir Putin at their summit earlier this month in Sochi.

Should the United States cooperate with Russia on civilian nuclear technology? In general, that’s a wonderful concept. In this particular case, however, the idea is fundamentally flawed. The Bush administration apparently thinks the proposed deal would support Russia’s plan to enrich uranium for Iran. “We can’t isolate ourselves from Russia and then expect that these are the proposals that are going to be the solution to the Iranian nuclear program,” says an unnamed State Department official.

I, on the other hand, am all for isolating ourselves from counterproductive concepts. There will one day be a solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, but it will not run through Moscow. Moscow, we should remember, is a huge part the problem. It has been blocking effective action against Iran at the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Security Council, it has supplied the reactors at Iran’s Bushehr generating station and delivered its uranium fuel, and it has sold Iran air-defense systems to protect its nuclear sites. And all this against the express wishes of . . . the Bush administration. So why does the President think the Russians are going to be any more cooperative in the future? I have stared into Putin’s soul and seen–among other things–an unrepentant proliferator.

Moscow’s fuel bank proposal is tailored to help Tehran. Iranians will undoubtedly end up working at the Russian facility. As they do so, they will pick up critical expertise that can be used back home in covert locations. So why should we help Iran obtain advanced nuclear technology? President Bush needs to come up with a better explanation if he wants to ink this stinker of a deal.

A Reuters report states that the Bush administration will, within a month, send to Congress a pact on civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia. The agreement will take effect within 90 legislative days unless Congress votes it down. The President discussed the arrangement with Vladimir Putin at their summit earlier this month in Sochi.

Should the United States cooperate with Russia on civilian nuclear technology? In general, that’s a wonderful concept. In this particular case, however, the idea is fundamentally flawed. The Bush administration apparently thinks the proposed deal would support Russia’s plan to enrich uranium for Iran. “We can’t isolate ourselves from Russia and then expect that these are the proposals that are going to be the solution to the Iranian nuclear program,” says an unnamed State Department official.

I, on the other hand, am all for isolating ourselves from counterproductive concepts. There will one day be a solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, but it will not run through Moscow. Moscow, we should remember, is a huge part the problem. It has been blocking effective action against Iran at the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Security Council, it has supplied the reactors at Iran’s Bushehr generating station and delivered its uranium fuel, and it has sold Iran air-defense systems to protect its nuclear sites. And all this against the express wishes of . . . the Bush administration. So why does the President think the Russians are going to be any more cooperative in the future? I have stared into Putin’s soul and seen–among other things–an unrepentant proliferator.

Moscow’s fuel bank proposal is tailored to help Tehran. Iranians will undoubtedly end up working at the Russian facility. As they do so, they will pick up critical expertise that can be used back home in covert locations. So why should we help Iran obtain advanced nuclear technology? President Bush needs to come up with a better explanation if he wants to ink this stinker of a deal.

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ElBaradei Responds

Responding to revelations about the Israeli strike on a Syrian nuclear facility last September, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director General, Mohammad ElBaradei, issued an angry statement. According to the Agency,

The Director General deplores the fact that this information was not provided to the Agency in a timely manner, in accordance with the Agency’s responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to enable it to verify its veracity and establish the facts. Under the NPT, the Agency has a responsibility to verify any proliferation allegations in a non-nuclear weapon State party to the NPT and to report its findings to the IAEA Board of Governors and the Security Council, as required.

In light of the above, the Director General views the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime.

Having spent six years NOT stopping Iran from pursuing its nuclear goals, having been remarkably unsuccessful in his efforts to stop North Korea from proliferating, having been completely in the dark about Libya’s attempts to proliferate, and having also failed to disrupt A. Q. Khan’s black market nuclear tech network, ElBaradei has little standing to decry Israel’s action as undermining “the due process of verification.”

The only real cause of upset for ElBaradei, I’d wager, is the lack of what he calls “due process:” namely, a role in these events for himself and his agency. But given the success and freedom from interference IAEA-examined proliferators currently enjoy–consider Iran and look no further–perhaps the occasional surgical bombing should be welcomed, not chastised, by those who wish to see effective checks on proliferation.

Responding to revelations about the Israeli strike on a Syrian nuclear facility last September, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director General, Mohammad ElBaradei, issued an angry statement. According to the Agency,

The Director General deplores the fact that this information was not provided to the Agency in a timely manner, in accordance with the Agency’s responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to enable it to verify its veracity and establish the facts. Under the NPT, the Agency has a responsibility to verify any proliferation allegations in a non-nuclear weapon State party to the NPT and to report its findings to the IAEA Board of Governors and the Security Council, as required.

In light of the above, the Director General views the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime.

Having spent six years NOT stopping Iran from pursuing its nuclear goals, having been remarkably unsuccessful in his efforts to stop North Korea from proliferating, having been completely in the dark about Libya’s attempts to proliferate, and having also failed to disrupt A. Q. Khan’s black market nuclear tech network, ElBaradei has little standing to decry Israel’s action as undermining “the due process of verification.”

The only real cause of upset for ElBaradei, I’d wager, is the lack of what he calls “due process:” namely, a role in these events for himself and his agency. But given the success and freedom from interference IAEA-examined proliferators currently enjoy–consider Iran and look no further–perhaps the occasional surgical bombing should be welcomed, not chastised, by those who wish to see effective checks on proliferation.

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North Korea, Syria, and Iran

Today, U.S. intelligence officials will give closed-door briefings to members of Congress about North Korea’s role in building a reactor in Syria. (Israel, it’s been confirmed, destroyed that nuclear facility with their air-strikes last September.)

Why are the briefings taking place now? This morning the New York Times‘s David Sanger speculated that Vice President Cheney is trying to scuttle the six-party disarmament talks by highlighting Pyongyang’s proliferant behavior. Others have floated more intriguing theories. For example, Jon Wolfsthal, an analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, thinks the Bush administration is releasing the information at this time to rescue its tentative deal with the North Koreans by letting them off the hook. “If it turns out we have them dead to rights–that we have enough information on our own–then we can eliminate this as a point of contention,” he says. “Maybe we don’t need to negotiate transparency with North Korea because we already know enough.”

Wolfstal is onto something–this is definitely how the State Department thinks. There is, of course, no reason to humiliate the Koreans publicly by forcing them to confess to something we already know. Yet there are two fundamental flaws with this line of reasoning. First, it is important that the North Koreans make a complete declaration of their proliferation activities to show that they have made the critical decision to stop spreading dangerous technologies. Second, we do not know whether Syria is the only party to which they have transferred such expertise. Specifically, it’s critical that we learn about the extent of Pyongyang’s relationship with Tehran.

There are reports that Iranians traveled to North Korea to witness its October 2006 nuclear test, that the North Koreans sold processed uranium to Iran, and that they have been coaching their Iranian counterparts on how to dodge inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The links between the two nuclear programs appear to go back to the late 1990’s.

North Korea’s proliferant activities may not be limited to just Syria and Iran. They are so extensive that there is concern that Kim Jong Il is trying to replicate the old A.Q. Khan nuclear black market. In any event, Pyongyang’s promise to make a declaration of its nuclear activities is a perfect opportunity for us to find out their real extent.

Today, U.S. intelligence officials will give closed-door briefings to members of Congress about North Korea’s role in building a reactor in Syria. (Israel, it’s been confirmed, destroyed that nuclear facility with their air-strikes last September.)

Why are the briefings taking place now? This morning the New York Times‘s David Sanger speculated that Vice President Cheney is trying to scuttle the six-party disarmament talks by highlighting Pyongyang’s proliferant behavior. Others have floated more intriguing theories. For example, Jon Wolfsthal, an analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, thinks the Bush administration is releasing the information at this time to rescue its tentative deal with the North Koreans by letting them off the hook. “If it turns out we have them dead to rights–that we have enough information on our own–then we can eliminate this as a point of contention,” he says. “Maybe we don’t need to negotiate transparency with North Korea because we already know enough.”

Wolfstal is onto something–this is definitely how the State Department thinks. There is, of course, no reason to humiliate the Koreans publicly by forcing them to confess to something we already know. Yet there are two fundamental flaws with this line of reasoning. First, it is important that the North Koreans make a complete declaration of their proliferation activities to show that they have made the critical decision to stop spreading dangerous technologies. Second, we do not know whether Syria is the only party to which they have transferred such expertise. Specifically, it’s critical that we learn about the extent of Pyongyang’s relationship with Tehran.

There are reports that Iranians traveled to North Korea to witness its October 2006 nuclear test, that the North Koreans sold processed uranium to Iran, and that they have been coaching their Iranian counterparts on how to dodge inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The links between the two nuclear programs appear to go back to the late 1990’s.

North Korea’s proliferant activities may not be limited to just Syria and Iran. They are so extensive that there is concern that Kim Jong Il is trying to replicate the old A.Q. Khan nuclear black market. In any event, Pyongyang’s promise to make a declaration of its nuclear activities is a perfect opportunity for us to find out their real extent.

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A “Milestone” Agreement with Iran

A few hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “milestone” agreement with Iran. According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran will cooperate “on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May.” The “alleged studies” are materials supplied by the United States and other Western nations showing that Iran had at one time conducted nuclear bomb research.

Iranian officials and the IAEA’s chief investigator, Olli Heinonen, negotiated the agreement during talks on Monday and Tuesday in the Iranian capital. Previously, Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization’s chief, had said that the world “needs to make sure Iran did not have a weapons program.”

For Tehran, the agreement with the IAEA is obviously another delaying tactic. Yet the deal also creates a deadline. If the Iranians cannot refute the alleged studies by next month and cannot admit that they had tried to weaponize the atom, then the international community faces another one of those moments of truth.

Deadlines do not enforce themselves. Great powers do that. By the end of next month we will know whether the United States is still a great power. Iran is not just about the Middle East, and it is not just about Syria and all the other nations that want the bomb. Iran is now about us.

A few hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “milestone” agreement with Iran. According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran will cooperate “on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May.” The “alleged studies” are materials supplied by the United States and other Western nations showing that Iran had at one time conducted nuclear bomb research.

Iranian officials and the IAEA’s chief investigator, Olli Heinonen, negotiated the agreement during talks on Monday and Tuesday in the Iranian capital. Previously, Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization’s chief, had said that the world “needs to make sure Iran did not have a weapons program.”

For Tehran, the agreement with the IAEA is obviously another delaying tactic. Yet the deal also creates a deadline. If the Iranians cannot refute the alleged studies by next month and cannot admit that they had tried to weaponize the atom, then the international community faces another one of those moments of truth.

Deadlines do not enforce themselves. Great powers do that. By the end of next month we will know whether the United States is still a great power. Iran is not just about the Middle East, and it is not just about Syria and all the other nations that want the bomb. Iran is now about us.

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Be Afraid

The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declared flatly in the opening sentence of its key judgments that “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” This categorical statement was accompanied by a footnote which stated that it was excluding from its appraisal “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.” That was misleading right off the bat because Iran’s civil uranium program is an indispensable part of its nuclear-weapons effort. This “civilian” program continues apace.

But what about the covert military side of the Iranian program itself? Did it really come to a halt in 2003 as the NIE states with “high confidence”? Back in February, reports came to light that an laptop with extensive information on Iran’s covert nuclear program had fallen into the hands of U.S. intelligence in 2004. Comprehensive and alarming stories about what was contained in the laptop appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

The deputy director general of safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency briefed member states, including Iran, about the contents of the laptop in February. The briefing notes have now been posted online by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington D.C.

The IAEA official describes, among other things, instructions on how to communicate  within the Iranian program using only first names and the “timing of firing devices-leading to an explosion at an altitude of about 600 meters.” The IAEA’s evaluation of Iran’s “Tests of High Power Explosives” is unambiguous:  

The high-tension firing systems and multiple EBW detonators fired simultaneously are key components of nuclear weapons.

There are a limited number of non-nuclear applications (high performance technique for exploratory drilling).

The elements available to the Agency are not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon.

The Agency does not have sufficient information at this stage to conclude whether the allegations are groundless or the data fabricated

Some U.S. officials initially believed the documents contained in the laptop might have been an elaborate forgery. But a consensus has emerged among Western intelligence agencies that they are in fact authentic. The documents do not indicate whether the covert nuclear program actually came to a halt in 2003 as U.S. intelligence has concluded. Nonetheless, the scale and scope of what Iran was doing up until that point is staggering. The IAEA document is essential reading.

The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declared flatly in the opening sentence of its key judgments that “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” This categorical statement was accompanied by a footnote which stated that it was excluding from its appraisal “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.” That was misleading right off the bat because Iran’s civil uranium program is an indispensable part of its nuclear-weapons effort. This “civilian” program continues apace.

But what about the covert military side of the Iranian program itself? Did it really come to a halt in 2003 as the NIE states with “high confidence”? Back in February, reports came to light that an laptop with extensive information on Iran’s covert nuclear program had fallen into the hands of U.S. intelligence in 2004. Comprehensive and alarming stories about what was contained in the laptop appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

The deputy director general of safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency briefed member states, including Iran, about the contents of the laptop in February. The briefing notes have now been posted online by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington D.C.

The IAEA official describes, among other things, instructions on how to communicate  within the Iranian program using only first names and the “timing of firing devices-leading to an explosion at an altitude of about 600 meters.” The IAEA’s evaluation of Iran’s “Tests of High Power Explosives” is unambiguous:  

The high-tension firing systems and multiple EBW detonators fired simultaneously are key components of nuclear weapons.

There are a limited number of non-nuclear applications (high performance technique for exploratory drilling).

The elements available to the Agency are not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon.

The Agency does not have sufficient information at this stage to conclude whether the allegations are groundless or the data fabricated

Some U.S. officials initially believed the documents contained in the laptop might have been an elaborate forgery. But a consensus has emerged among Western intelligence agencies that they are in fact authentic. The documents do not indicate whether the covert nuclear program actually came to a halt in 2003 as U.S. intelligence has concluded. Nonetheless, the scale and scope of what Iran was doing up until that point is staggering. The IAEA document is essential reading.

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