Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How Much Of This Story Can Be Traced To Sharon's Illness?

Iran resumes nuclear research, angering West

By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran removed U.N. seals at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant and resumed nuclear fuel research on Tuesday, drawing sharp Western criticism but no immediate threats of punitive action.

Tehran denies wanting nuclear technology for anything but a civilian energy program aimed at satisfying the Islamic Republic's booming demand for electricity.

But the United States and the European Union doubt that Iran's atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful and are likely to ask the U.N. Security Council, which can impose economic sanctions, to take up the matter, Western diplomats said.

Western powers had called on Iran to refrain from any work that could help it develop atomic weapons.

"Iran's nuclear research centers have restarted their activities," Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told state television.

He said work at the research facilities would be under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

Saeedi told a news conference Iran had come to an agreement with the IAEA on what work Tehran would do. He gave no details.

The IAEA in Vienna confirmed Iran was removing U.N. seals at Natanz, an underground plant in central Iran that Tehran concealed from U.N. inspectors until an Iranian exile group revealed its existence in August 2002.
The timing seems suspicious, to say the least: Sharon nearly drops dead, and Iran breaks the UN seals on its nuclear reactor. One suspects they were looking for an excuse.

We know that Israel has nukes, somewhere on the order of 100-200, and the ability to deliver them regionally. We have strong reason to suspect Iran has them already, and have pretty good evidence that Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan, a nexus of actual and potential Islamist launching pads for attacks on Israel, have them as well. We suspect Kazahkstan and Chechnya may be developing low-yield weaponry or have simply hidden some weapons from the former Soviet Union.

And keep in mind that the fastest growing minority in that erstwhile entity is a Muslim religious minority, 80 million, made up mostly of the southern Asian republics.

See, John Kerry was absolutely spot on when he said during the debates in 2004 that Bush has done a shameful job of securing the loose Russian nuclear materials. He committed the nation to the SORT treaty in 2002, which was a rewriting of the SALT and START agreements that mitigated the reduction AND REMOVAL of nuclear weapons-grade materials, as well as the oversight mechanism that Reagan so handily summed up as "trust but verify". He committed $10 billion over 10 years.

Do you realize that committment added not one dollar to the spending we already had in place under the Nunn-Lugar bill of 1991?

Having failed to cooperate with our allies on critical issues like Iraq and terrorism, having failed to confront Iran's nuclear programs (as well as North Korea's) more forcefully, indeed, having abrogated our position as chief nonproliferator, it stands to reason that Iran looked at its agreements with France, Britain and Russia (with the US as a deeply interested spectator), and thumbed their noses at it at the first chance they had.

So to answer my original question, Sharon's illness may have been the trigger, but the safety was released way back in 2002.

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