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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Barak: Iran delayed nuclear showdown by 8-10 months

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has told the London Daily Telegraph that Iran delayed its date of reckoning by 8-10 months this past summer, by converting some of its 20% enriched uranium for civilians use. But Israel's Defense Minister predicts that date is still coming.
Earlier this year, however, Iran delayed the arrival of that moment. Tehran has amassed 189kg of uranium enriched to 20 per cent purity, a vital step towards weapons-grade material. In August, the country’s experts took 38 per cent of this stockpile and converted it into fuel rods for a civilian research reactor, thus putting off the moment when they would be able to make uranium of sufficient purity for a nuclear bomb.
Mr Barak said this decision “allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months”. As for why Iran had drawn back, the minister said: “There could be at least three explanations. One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer. It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time. It could be a way of telling the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] 'oh we comply with our commitments’.”
Mr Barak added: “Maybe it’s a combination of all these three elements. I cannot tell you for sure.”
But this decision had probably avoided a crisis. Asked whether the critical moment would otherwise have arrived “about now”, Mr Barak replied simply: “Probably yes.”
Yet the minister stressed how Iran’s move was not a genuine change of heart. The fuel rods could be converted back into medium-enriched uranium, although this would take months and waste much of the material. In any event, Iran is now using 9,852 centrifuges to enrich uranium, according to the IAEA, so its stockpile is being replenished.
Mr Barak insisted that Iran was still resolved to build nuclear weapons, predicting that success would trigger an arms race in the Middle East and “make any non-proliferation regime impossible. Saudi Arabia will turn nuclear within weeks – according to them. Turkey will turn nuclear in several years. The new Egypt will have to follow”. The world would start the “countdown” to the “nightmare” of “nuclear material ending up in the hands of terrorist groups”
What could go wrong?
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