Thursday, February 22, 2007

Iran roundup

As expected, an IAEA report has declared that Iran is in violation of U.N. resolutions regarding its nuclear program, opening the way for more severe sanctions.

Despite uncertainty over Iran's actual capabilities, the report nonetheless said that Iran has or soon will have 1,000 centrifuges for purifying uranium -- short of the 3,000 it expected to have by now (enough to produce one bomb's worth of uranium a year), but more than most outside observers expected.

Update: Here's the report (pdf).

Most everybody, including U.S. officials, say military action isn't imminent. Israel's being a bit mum, but Tony Blair said yesterday that an attack would be a bad idea, finally saying publicly what British officials had been saying privately for some time.

Then there's this:

Senior British government sources have told The Times that they fear President Bush will seek to “settle the Iranian question through military means” next year, before the end of his second term if he concludes that diplomacy has failed. “He will not want to leave it unresolved for his successor,” said one.

That's speculation, of course. If true, I'm of two minds on it. It's good not to let the diplomatic dance drag on indefinitely without results. But the end of his term is a fairly arbitrary deadline, and military action might simply hand his successor an ongoing crisis instead of an unresolved dispute. If we have to bomb -- and I'm on record supporting such a move if it proves necessary -- it should be because the talks went nowhere, not because Bush is preparing to leave office.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that our intelligence stinks...

Most of the tip-offs about supposed secret weapons sites provided by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies have led to dead ends when investigated by IAEA inspectors, according to informed sources in Vienna.

"Most of it has turned out to be incorrect," a diplomat at the IAEA with detailed knowledge of the agency's investigations said.

"They gave us a paper with a list of sites. [The inspectors] did some follow-up, they went to some military sites, but there was no sign of [banned nuclear] activities.

"Now [the inspectors] don't go in blindly. Only if it passes a credibility test."

...but Iran has some questions to answer.

One of the "outstanding issues" listed in yesterday's report involves a 15-page document that appears to have been handed to IAEA inspectors by mistake with a batch of unrelated paperwork in October 2005.

That document roughly describes how to make hemispheres of enriched uranium, for which the only known use is in nuclear warheads. Iran has yet to present a satisfactory explanation of how and why it has the document.

Whatever you think ought to be done about Iran's nuclear program, it seems beyond doubt that they are pursuing weaponry.

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