Monday, September 28, 2009

"Moreover, the evidence that the new facility is part of a military program is compelling. According to unclassified U.S. government talking points, the clandestine facility near Qom is "intended to hold approximately 3,000 centrifuges" of an unknown type. In 2007, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, then head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said that Iran's target was to have 50,000 centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment facility. This number was needed to make "meaningful amounts of nuclear fuel" for one or two commercial-scale power plants to generate electricity.

Thus, by Iran's own admission, the Qom facility is too small for civilian purposes. It is not, however, too small to produce meaningful amounts of highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapons program."


The authors are way too optimistic about our chances to impose meaningful sanctions on the Iranian administration. We'll need the Russians and the Chinese to sign off on any new economically-crippling sanctions but the Russian president, German chancellor, and Chinese premier were nowhere to be seen when U.S. President Barack Obama, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicholas Sarkozy insisted that Iran comply with the international nonproliferation regime within a two-month framework.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not embarrassed by this disclosure. Iran tested medium-range missiles that could reach Israel. His timing couldn't be any better (or worse) depending on how one look's at it. In all likelihood these tests were probably scheduled long before Obama, Sarkozy, and Brown demanded Iranian compliance to the nonproliferation regime in place.

At this point in time, however, raising the decibel level would be counterproductive. Our Russian and Chinese counterparts have yet to sign onto, let alone enforce, a meaningful regimen so the Iranian administration will view any condemnations issued by the three said heads of state as unenforced bluster.

Iran's mullahs and Revolutionary Guards could, however, use any such condemnations from the West to rally the people behind them at a time when their legitimacy was visibly shaken by accusations of voter fraud and the brutal suppression of those dissidents who marched in Tehran's streets. Green Revolution backers and opponents alike, support Iran's right to nuclear technology. Condemning the Iranians for noncompliance can only help the Supreme Leader, the mullahs, and the Revolutionary Guards put the bad publicity surrounding the Iranian election results behind them.

For now the president and his European allies should make their case behind the scenes and deprive the Iran's theocratic regime of the publicity they may very well be seeking. The negotiations with the Iranians will continue and the president must, for his part, show them he is negotiating in good faith by hinting at (through lower State Department officials) what the Iranians could get for total compliance but at some point the negotiations will have to come to an end and sanctions will have to be imposed with or without Russian and Chinese cooperation. The United States will have to publicly assure our allies in the Middle East and the Israelis in particular, that we will defend them from any Iranian military attack. Moving our missile defense capabilities in the Mediterranean Sea will help in this effort.

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