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Friday, December 28, 2012

Iran: Let's make a deal?

The New York Times reports that Iran may be trying to make a deal over its nuclear capability.
Evidence from a variety of sources, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, suggests that as Iran produced more uranium enriched to near 20 percent purity, a process that takes it most of the way to bomb-grade fuel, it began diverting some into an oxide powder that could be used in a small research reactor in Tehran. That diversion is believed to have begun in August.
Iran had been complaining for years that the research reactor, which was supplied by the United States during the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to produce isotopes for medical purposes, was running out of fuel, and that the West refused to sell it more. So it decided to make the fuel itself. Now, even though it has enough fuel to keep the reactor running for at least a decade, it may be making more, several sources indicate.
The statistics released in quarterly reports by the atomic energy agency show that if Iran had not diverted fuel to that project, it would have enough medium-enriched fuel for one bomb and would be on its way to enough for a second. Instead, as of the agency’s last report, in November, Iran had enriched 232 kilograms (about 511 pounds) of the fuel, nearly enough to produce a weapon. But more than 96 kilograms (almost 212 pounds) had been sent off for fabrication into fuel plates for the reactor. Once turned to that purpose, the fuel is very difficult to use in a bomb.
The Times goes on to quote intelligence analysts who believe that Iran is trying to signal willingness to reach a deal with the West, or at least to be seen as willing to reach such a deal.

JPost adds:
The report came as an Iranian official said Thursday that Tehran would let UN nuclear inspectors into a military base they suspect was used for atomic weapons-related work, if threats against the Islamic Republic are dropped.
The IAEA believes Iran conducted explosives tests with possible nuclear applications at Parchin, a sprawling military base southeast of Tehran, and has repeatedly asked to inspect it.
Western diplomats say Iran has carried out extensive work at Parchin over the past year to cleanse it of any evidence of illicit activities but IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said earlier this month a visit would still be "useful."
"If the trans-regional threats (against Iran) dissipate, then they will find it possible to visit Parchin," Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi was quoted by the Iranian Labor News Agency as saying on Wednesday. The comments were also published on Thursday by online magazine Iran Diplomacy.
Qashqavi was most likely referring to Israel's threat of military strikes against Iran and the possibility of further sanctions by the West.
Iran is playing games. It's seeking to get the sanctions removed without actually stopping the uranium production or allowing weapons inspectors in to report on a real-time basis. The only reason it's behaving this way is that it is feeling threatened, particularly by the prospect of the US joining with Israel in a strike.  For example, from the reports in the media, it seems that Michele Flournoy is a lot more likely to advise President Obama to strike Iran than would Leon Panetta or Chuck Hagel. Flournoy currently seems to be the front runner for the Secretary of Defense position. Additionally, the prospect of Binyamin Netanyahu being reelected with everyone knowing that he wants to attack Iran cannot be comforting for the mullahs.

But this is not a time to let down our guard.

What could go wrong?

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