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Monday, September 08, 2008

David Kay on Iran’s Nukes and Intentions

Almost every rational person in the world knows full well that we cannot possibly allow Iran to proceed to development of a working nuclear weapon, although we are agonizing over what must be done to stop it. So far, somewhat due to Russian and Chinese intransigence, peaceful efforts involving various carrots and sticks have had no effect. In his article excerpted below, David Kay sets out his firm belief that Iran is close to developing such weapons. Kay may not be a favorite of conservatives in the U.S.A., but in the 1990’s, he was the person who first reported on the extent of Saddam’s huge and almost completely successful secret nuclear weapons program. That he was also the one who also reported the disintegration of that program in 2003 is beside the point; he also reported then that this discovery was a complete surprise to everyone, and that Saddam’s nuclear weapons program had the potential to be reconstructed at any time. He is a man to whom we should listen.

Kay’s article breaks down when it comes to discussing what we should do about Iran; he talks about forming alliances and mutual security pacts and pushing for a realization among all countries of the region to ban the use of these weapons. This is something we can work toward, but it cannot happen until there is a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and the rest of the Muslim countries in the area sign on and respect an area-wide peace treaty. That may not happen in this generation. Meanwhile the problem festers.

What's Missing From the Iran Debate
Building a Security Framework for a Nuclear Tehran

By David Kay
September 8, 2008 Washington Post (Excerpt)

"It would be impossible and foolish to predict what lies immediately ahead for Iran. Inflation runs rampant and domestic unrest is growing, but the leadership is banding together in support of the country's nuclear program. Threat assessment and war planning are (or should be) about best-guessing capabilities and intentions. When it comes to Iran, these calculations are difficult, but there are things we can -- and must -- figure out. Given what we know and what we can best-guess, it looks as if Iran is 80 percent of the way to a functioning nuclear weapon.

Every nuclear program needs raw materials, a way to refine them and, in the final stage, weaponization. Getting and enriching the materials is the hardest part; without this, a nuclear reaction is impossible. How does Iran's nuclear program measure up?

The situation is a bit murky, but we know, basically, that Tehran has a handle on the fissionable material. Iran imported significant amounts of raw uranium from China in 1991. It has also attempted to produce weapons-grade material, conducting secret enrichment efforts and acquiring designs, materials and samples of gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment from the A.Q. Khan network. Plus, over the past 18 years, the Iranians have developed and tested state-of-the-art centrifuges and enrichment techniques. If Iran's 6,000 forthcoming new-design centrifuges were working for a year, the program could produce about five weapons. My best guess is that they are about two to four years away from accomplishing this.

Next comes weaponization. The fissionable material must be converted into metal and packaged. Here again, Iran has made substantial progress. What remains is to produce these elements in adequate numbers and amounts; combine them in an engineering design that ensures that they work and that fits on a missile; and gain confidence that the resulting weapons will get the job done.

All of this is public knowledge, but the answers to most of the important questions relating to intent and progress on crucial elements of weaponization are unknown. It's the only partially understood and suspected activities of Iran that are most alarming. Signs of these activities include detection by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors of samples of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium; more extensive plutonium separation than Iran has admitted; weapons design work; construction of a heavy-water reactor and its associated heavy-water production facility; design work on missile reentry vehicles that seem to be for a nuclear weapon; and reports of yet-undiscovered programs and facilities.

If all of these activities are real, it would mean that Iran is moving faster and is closer to obtaining a nuclear-weapons capability than the hard facts suggest. Obtaining that last 20 percent of the elements needed to make a nuclear weapon would take perhaps one to two years, instead of the four to seven years needed if they were not.

While we know a lot more about Iran than we did about Iraq (before the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars), we still lack answers to the most important questions, including:

• If Iran has decided or decides to acquire nuclear weapons, how long will it take to do so and how many could it produce per year?

• How much foreign assistance has Iran received, and from whom did it it receive it?

• Does Iran have unknown clandestine nuclear facilities and, if so, how many? Doing what?

• What are the real capabilities of Iran's various weapons-delivery options, particularly its missiles?

• What are the command-and-control arrangements for Iran's nuclear program? Where is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in this mix?

This dirty-laundry list is one reason efforts to provide net assessments about where the program is have proved so contentious. The last U.S. attempt to produce a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, in December, led to a comedy remarkable even by Washington standards. Yet we are talking about a country with known nuclear ambitions and a track record of violating international obligations in pursuit of that goal.

Despite the unanswered questions, we have some pretty frightening knowledge about Iran's nuclear capabilities. Less clear are its intentions.

Tehran often claims to want only to pursue a civilian nuclear program. But it also says it wants to wipe Israel off the map. And Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, along with Ahmadinejad, sees nuclear "power" as a symbol of national pride. It's difficult to know what to believe.

What truly raises tensions, though, is Iran's worldview. Iranians have learned to fear the power of others and to believe that they must ultimately organize their world in a way that lessens the power of the states that pose the greatest threat to them. And Iran's essential national security threat has never been Israel. It is the United States.

My humble best guess is that Iran is pushing toward a nuclear-weapons capability as rapidly as it can. But if Tehran were to believe that American -- not Israeli -- military action is imminent, it might slow work on the elements of its program that it thinks the world can observe. Yet such temporizing would only be tactical. Its strategic goal is to acquire nuclear weapons to counter what it views as a real U.S. threat. Iran appears to believe that the United States is not willing to accept the validity and survival of the Iranian revolutionary state.” Washington Post

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1 Comments:

At 3:15 PM, Anonymous StM Traveler said...

USA: Conflict over Iranian natural resources

The whole issue of conflict with Iran is about control of the sources of energy, oil and nuclear fuel. British-American control of the sources of energy, oil, started once the value of oil over coal was demonstrated by German engineers especially for propulsion of ships.

The second main source of energy is nuclear power generation. The efforts to monopolize nuclear fuel production started in 1978, when the Nuclear Suppliers Group tried to impose restrictions on the right of developing countries to enrich their own uranium, a right. Since Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ensures access to peaceful uses of nuclear technology for non-nuclear weapon states, the technology for uranium enrichment must be permitted to all states under the current nonproliferation regime. Countries like Iran therefore, are permitted to develop their own enrichment technology for peaceful nuclear energy production. Iran has argued for an international nuclear fuel consortium to operate Iranian nuclear enrichment. Iranians assert that this international cooperative arrangement and IAEA oversight together will eliminate USA fear that Iran is attempting to use the technology to develop nuclear weapon.

The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) is a USA initiative that offers an international control over production of nuclear fuel and disposal of the associated nuclear wastes. GNEP-initiative monopolizes nuclear fuel production and waste management infrastructure.

Global Nuclear Power Infrastructure (GNPI) is a Russian initiative.
The Angarsk Electrolyzing and Chemical Combine, a plant created to enrich uranium for the Soviet nuclear program is located in Angarsk in southeastern Siberia, Russia. The international uranium enrichment center" (IUEC) in Angarsk objective is to provide a guaranteed supply of uranium fuel for countries which do not enrich uranium themselves, Iran, India and others. Russia will retain exclusive control of all sensitive enrichment technology.

All these initiatives, both GNEP and GNPI have one thing in common, monopolizing production of nuclear fuel. Any nation who would have nuclear reactor but can not control the supplier of nuclear fuel is not an independent nation. The case of Iran and Russia as supplier of the fuel demonstrates my argument. The Iranian problem for receiving from Russia fuel for Bushehr - Iran Nuclear Reactor was greatly co-opted by the United States forcing Iran to initiate her own fuel production.

 

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