Tehran’s cheat­ing and CIA spin

The Washington Times Weekly - - EDITORIALS -

For years, those in the West who have been warn­ing about the dan­ger of Iran ob­tain­ing nu­clear weapons have been rou­tinely dis­missed as “alarmists” by lib­eral politi­cians, diplo­mats and jour­nal­is­tic elites. With the pub­li­ca­tion of the May 15 New York Times ar­ti­cle by David Sanger high­light­ing the gains that Iran has made in its ef­forts to pro­duce atomic-bomb-grade ma­te­rial (it could be able to do this as early as next month), the me­dia/po­lit­i­cal spin could be about to change dra­mat­i­cally. Ad­vo­cates of a softer line to­ward the mul­lahs will ar­gue that Tehran’s nu­clear weapons ca­pa­bil­ity is a fait ac­com­pli, and that the best course of ac­tion for Wash­ing­ton would be to join the Euro­peans’ diplo­matic ef­fort to mit­i­gate the dam­age.

On May 13, In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA) of­fi­cials in­spected Iran’s main nu­clear fa­cil­ity at Natanz and con­cluded Iran is pro­duc­ing fuel suit­able for nu­clear re­ac­tors. Un­til re­cently the Ira­ni­ans found it dif­fi­cult to keep the cen­trifuges spin­ning fast enough to pro­duce nu­clear fuel, and were ei­ther run­ning them empty or not at all. “Now, those road­blocks ap­pear to have been sur­mounted,” Mr. Sanger re­ported.

IAEA chief Mo­hammed ElBa­radei du­ti­fully re­peats the line that he hopes the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment “would lis­ten to the world com­mu­nity,” while mak­ing it clear there won’t be any real con­se­quences if it does not. The pur­pose of in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to per­suade Tehran to sus­pend its en­rich­ment ac­tiv­i­ties was to deny it the knowl­edge of how to en­rich ura­nium for weapons pro­duc­tion, Mr. ElBa­radei noted. Now that Iran’s de­fi­ance may have per­mit­ted it to sur­mount the tech­ni­cal prob­lems, Mr. ElBa­radei wants the West to do what is nec­es­sary to en­sure that the Ira­ni­ans “re­main inside” the in­ter­na­tional Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty. In other words, he wants to use diplo­macy to pa­per over the fact that Iran has lied and cheated and come a long way to­ward achiev­ing pre­cisely what the treaty was sup­posed to pre­vent: the abil­ity to de­velop nu­clear weapons. A se­nior Euro­pean diplo­mat made much the same point in an in­ter­view with Mr. Sanger.

How dra­mat­i­cally things have changed from just two years ago, when the NYT and The Wash­ing­ton Post both re­ported ex­ten­sively on new CIA find­ings which high­lighted the fact that, un­like the De­fense and State De­part­ments, which thought Iran could pro­duce a nu­clear weapon in roughly five years, the spooks had con­cluded that Iran was ac­tu­ally 10 years away. If that sce­nario sounds familiar, it’s be­cause the same thing took place with re­gard to Iraq in the early 1990s. But af­ter Sad­dam Hus­sein’s sons-in-law, who over­saw his WMD pro­grams, de­fected in 1995, the world learned that Sad­dam very close to ob­tain­ing a nu­clear weapon. The 10-year win­dows may have lit­tle real-world rel­e­vance, but they serve a use­ful pur­pose for would-be diplo­mat-politi­cians at the CIA — push­ing the prob­lem fur­ther into the fu­ture in the hope that a “diplo­matic so­lu­tion” can be found, while leav­ing the agency with plenty of room to say “I told you so” when nasty sur­prises oc­cur.

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