Tehran’s nu­clear trig­ger

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Asmok­ing-gun doc­u­ment has emerged that in­di­cates Iran is closer than ever to de­vel­op­ing a nu­clear weapon. Top-se­cret tech­ni­cal notes leaked from deep within the Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram — and mak­ing the rounds of West­ern in­tel­li­gence agen­cies — de­tail re­search on a neu­tron ini­tia­tor, a de­vice that sets off a nu­clear det­o­na­tion. It is the smok­ing gun’s trig­ger.

The Is­lamic repub­lic has long ar­gued that its nu­clear pro­gram is in­tended for peace­ful pur­poses, but there is no peace­ful use for the neu­tron ini­tia­tor. It is not a “dual-use” tech­nol­ogy; it only sets off bombs. Iran ap­par­ently has been work­ing on the ini­tia­tor since at least 2007, co­in­ci­den­tally the same year that a Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Es­ti­mate from the United States In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity de­ter­mined that Iran had no in­ten­tion of seek­ing nu­clear weapons. In light of this and other rev­e­la­tions, that find­ing needs a se­ri­ous re­think­ing.

The timely rev­e­la­tion about Iran’s se­cret pro­gram comes as the per­ma­nent mem­bers of the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil pre­pare to dis­cuss pos­si­ble re­sponses to Iran’s nu­clear ob­sti­nacy. The case for de­ter­mined action is grow­ing, and the bill of par­tic­u­lars is long. In ad­di­tion to Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram, Tehran is still the world’s largest state spon­sor of global ter­ror­ism and sup­plies arms to in­sur­gents in Iraq and Afghanistan that are used to kill Amer­i­can troops. Iran has tested a rocket that could be the ba­sis for an in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile, and the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency re­cently con­fronted Tehran with ev­i­dence that Ira­nian sci­en­tists have ex­per­i­mented with an ad­vanced nu­clear war­head de­sign. And the hu­man rights night­mare in­side the coun­try con­tin­ues to in­ten­sify.

There are some signs of life in U.S. pol­icy to­ward Iran. The Trea­sury Depart­ment re­port­edly is im­ple­ment­ing a plan to tar­get front groups op­er­ated by the Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps, the regime’s feared para­mil­i­tary en­forcers, which the United States lists as a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion. The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard uses a net­work of front groups to evade in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, in part to sus­tain Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram. Wash­ing­ton plans to ex­pose and po­ten­tially shut down th­ese il­licit con­duits.

Pres­i­dent Obama also seems to be awak­en­ing to the se­ri­ous­ness of the is­sue. In his No­bel Peace Prize ac­cep­tance speech, the pres­i­dent re­it­er­ated his com­mit­ment to up­hold­ing the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, call­ing it a “cen­ter­piece” of his for­eign pol­icy. He said it was “in­cum­bent upon all of us to in­sist that na­tions like Iran . . . do not game the [nu­clear arms con­trol] sys­tem.” Tehran, how­ever, is will­ing to ditch the sys­tem al­to­gether. In a Nov. 30 ed­i­to­rial in the hard-line Ira­nian news­pa­per Kay­han, Hos­sein Shari­at­madari, who rep­re­sents Iran’s supreme re­li­gious leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, ques­tioned whether Iran should stay within the bounds of the Nu­clear Non­Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty regime. “Isn’t it time for Iran to pull out of the NPT?” he wrote. “This is a se­ri­ous ques­tion and needs a log­i­cal an­swer.”

The great­est na­tional se­cu­rity chal­lenge that will face the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is com­ing, and Mr. Obama will ei­ther shape events or be shaped by them. He said in Oslo that “those who seek peace can­not stand idly by as na­tions arm them­selves for nu­clear war.” How­ever, the United States has been stand­ing idle for years, and time is run­ning out. Even the much-crit­i­cized 2007 Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Es­ti­mate said Iran would be “tech­ni­cally ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing enough [highly en­riched ura­nium] for a weapon some­time dur­ing the 2010-2015 time frame.” Ac­cord­ing to our cal­en­dar, that win­dow opens about a week from now.

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