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Friday, May 27, 2011

Iran close to finalizing uranium deal with Zimbabwe

Iran has had a shortage of a critical component for its nuclear weapons for a long time: Uranium. Now, Iran is on the verge of signing a natural resources agreement with Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe that would give it preferential access to Zimbabwe's 455,000 tons of uranium over the next five years. Given that Iran currently has access to mostly depleted uranium from South Africa from the 1970's, that's a huge deal.

Ilan Berman argues that it's also a deal that has been largely ignored by western sanctions. It's time to change that.
Over the past three years, Western chancelleries have marshaled considerable diplomatic efforts to dissuade potential uranium suppliers such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Brazil from providing Tehran the raw material needed for its nuclear program. For all of their concern, however, Washington policy makers have not yet given serious thought to penalizing countries for their uranium sales to Iran, or crafted a legislative framework that makes it possible to do so.

They should. By identifying and then punishing Tehran's current suppliers of uranium ore, the U.S. and its allies can slow its acquisition of the raw material necessary to realize its nuclear ambitions-and send a clear signal to potential future sources of uranium for Iran's atomic effort, like Zimbabwe, that their involvement with the Islamic Republic's nuclear program will come at a steep economic and political cost.

In its ongoing bid to derail Iran's nuclear drive, Capitol Hill is now said to be contemplating new sanctions aimed at further tightening the international noose around Tehran. Iran's flirtation with Zimbabwe strongly suggests that lawmakers would do well to focus less on trying to stop Iran's centrifuges from spinning and more on making sure that Iran's nuclear machinery is running on empty.

Read the whole thing.

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