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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Good news: Iran 70% of the way to weapons-grade uranium

On Monday, Iran notified the IAEA that starting Tuesday, it will be working on enriching uranium to the 20% level.
Iran has formally informed the UN nuclear agency that it will start on February 9 to further enrich uranium stockpiles to a level of 20 percent, further fueling Western concerns that Tehran is secretly seeking a nuclear bomb-making capacity.

"We wrote a letter to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] that we shall start making 20-percent enriched fuel," the head of the Iranian Atomic Organization, Ali-Akbar Salehi, told Iran's Arabic-language state television channel, Al-Alam late on February 7. "We will hand over this official letter to the IAEA on [February 8] and shall start enrichment on [February 9] in the presence of IAEA monitors."

The move essentially circumvents a UN compromise deal aimed at easing Western concerns Iran could use its uranium for a nuclear weapon.
Citing David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post notes that Iran is not capable of enriching uranium to produce medical isotopes. But enriching uranium will help Iran to produce nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, enriching uranium under the guise of medical needs will get Tehran much closer to possessing weapons-grade material. Iran insists it has no interest in nuclear weapons. But Albright said 70 percent of the work toward reaching weapons-grade uranium took place when Iran enriched uranium gas to 3.5 percent. Enriching it further to the 19.75 percent needed for the reactor is an additional "15 to 20 percent of the way there."

Once the uranium is enriched above 20 percent, it is considered highly enriched uranium. The uranium would need to be enriched further, to 60 percent and then to 90 percent, before it could be used for a weapon. "The last two steps are not that big a deal," Albright said. They could be accomplished, he said, at a relatively small facility within months.
This has caused President Obumbler to leap enter into action and promise new sanctions against Iran 'within weeks.'
Speaking Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. did not approve of Iran's addition to refine uranium to purer levels, and that the west was developing a "significant regime of sanctions," to be implemented against Tehran within weeks. Speaking to reporters, Obama said he was sure that other countries would support further sanctions, because the world is "unified around Iran's misbehavior in this area."

Earlier, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview that "I think it's going to take some period of time - I would say weeks, not months - to see if we can't get another UN Security Council resolution."
Well, good luck with that. Even if they get the sanctions through it's probably too late.
Final possibility: It's almost impossible for international observers to differentiate between uranium enrichment for medical purposes and uranium enrichment for weapons purposes. Though the IAEA reports that Iran has already been spinning centrifuges for some time, this could signal Tehran's intention to boost their uranium enrichment to an industrial level. The bogus "20 percent medical purposes" line is simply convenient top cover -- unless IAEA observers were standing in the room, there's no real way to ascertain if Iranian nuke techs are spinning to 20 percent or the 90 percent necessary for a bomb core.

Sanctions clearly won't work. Iran is a master of working the black market, plus sanctions are slow, costly to friendly Western powers, and will ultimately benefit two nations who are helping the Iranians along: Russia and China.

President Obama must go for the jugular and get serious about fanning the flames of Iranian revolution. He can start by treating revolutionaries like Reagan treated the Polish Solidarity movement, recognizing an Iranian government in exile, and initiating an underground logistical line of techno gadgets like laptops and cell phones with encrypted uplinks, radio-broadcasting equipment, GPS transmitters, even iPods to assist in messaging -- anything that will ensure that a democratic revolution, not atomic devices, is the only thing that reaches critical mass.
Nice try, but I'd like to see President Obama give up on 'engagement' first.

President Obama has frittered away a critical year (plus) in which sanctions might have had a chance of being effective in curtailing or stopping Iran's nuclear program. Now, with Iran on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power, it's too late for sanctions. Either we 'learn to live with' an Iranian nuclear weapon (which, for reasons discussed many times on this blog, is almost impossible), or someone takes military action in the next few months.


At 12:51 PM, Blogger Chris Rettenmoser said...

I totally agree with Your comment, Irans nuclear installations must be wiped out by military force, against the will of Hussein Obama, the best friend of Irans mad mullahs.


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