February 7, 2008

Nuclear Iran: Reality Check (ii)

"2008 may yet provide Iran with an opportunity to relentless pursue its enrichment program while the world focuses on the U.S. Presidential race. As important as the next U.S. President may be, we cannot afford to allow the race to dim our view ... obscure our judgment. "

Before we consider the opinions of the many who have drawn the same conclusion, know this first:

Iran has no need for nuclear energy because of its immense oil and natural gas reserves which are equivalent to 9.3 percent of the world's reserves. In fact, Iran has 73,000,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas, an amount second only to the natural gas reserves of Russia.

Iran remains the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism and is on the Department of State's list of countries that provide support for acts of international terrorism.

Iran has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. Iran supports organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, which are responsible for terrorist attacks against Israel.

Iranian officials have stated their intent to complete at least three nuclear power plants by 2015 and are currently working to complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant located on the Persian Gulf coast.

Iran is building up its offensive military capacity in other areas as evidenced by its recent testing of engines for ballistic missiles capable of carrying 2,200 pound warheads more than 800 miles, within range of strategic targets in Israel.

Source: Global Security

As Iran continues to advance its uranium enrichment capabilities in defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, it ought be clear that sanctions, may at best, do little more than hamper the Iranians. Top foreign leaders, both Democratic and Republican national security experts, and leading editorialists have arrived at the same conclusion, that Iran remains a major threat.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy

"The threat exists… Notwithstanding the latest elements, everyone is fully conscious of the fact that there is a will among the Iranian leaders to obtain nuclear weapons… I don’t see why we should renounce sanctions… What made Iran budge so far has been sanctions and firmness." (The New York Times, Dec. 7, 2007)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

"I think that we are in a process, and that Iran continues to pose a danger." (The New York Times, Dec. 7, 2007)

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband

"There are three key elements to a nuclear weapon — the fissile material, the missile itself and the process of weaponising the fissile material for the missile. The US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear programme published this week suggests that Iran has put work on the last of these elements on hold. If so, good. But Iran is still pursuing the other two elements, in particular an enrichment programme that has no apparent civilian application, but which could produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon, despite demands to stop from the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency." (The Financial Times, Dec. 6, 2007)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

"[The NIE report confirmed] the double approach chosen by the international community of incentives and measures from the United Nations Security Council was right." (Deutsche Welle [Germany], Dec. 4, 2007)

French Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Pascale Andreani

"It appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations. … We must keep up the pressure on Iran... We will continue to work on the introduction of restrictive measures in the framework of the United Nations." (Reuters, Dec. 4, 2007)

Spokesperson for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

"It confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons [and] shows that the sanctions program and international pressure were having an effect in that they seem to have abandoned the weaponisation element." (Reuters, Dec. 4, 2007)


Gary Milhollin
Director, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control
and Valerie Lincy Editor of Iranwatch.org

"For years these expensive projects have been viewed as evidence of Iran’s commitment to nuclear weapons. Why aren’t they still? The answer is that the new report defines ‘nuclear weapons program’ in a ludicrously narrow way: it confines it to enriching uranium at secret sites or working on a nuclear weapon design. But the halting of its secret enrichment and weapon design efforts in 2003 proves only that Iran made a tactical move. It suspended work that, if discovered, would unambiguously reveal intent to build a weapon. It has continued other work, crucial to the ability to make a bomb, that it can pass off as having civilian applications." (The New York Times, Dec. 6, 2007)

Anthony Lake
Former National Security Adviser and Current Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"While we’ve got more time, we’ve got to use the time, because the enrichment activities are continuing." (Interview, The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 7, 2007)

Leonard Specter
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Arms Control and Nonproliferation and Current Deputy Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute for International Studies

"The danger of a nuclear armed Iran thus remains very real indeed. The United States, its partners on the UN Security Council, and others, such as Germany and the EU, who have played leading roles in the attempt to constrain Iran’s nuclear capabilities have every reason to sustain their efforts and must do so, in particular, by taking the next step in the process: imposing a third round of sanctions on Iran, while holding out the possibility of negotiations to ease the current impasse. … The international community needs to maintain pressure on Iran to change course and must not be deflected by taking greater comfort from the NIE than it actually provides." (The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 6, 2007)

Jon Wolfsthal
Senior Fellow, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Jon B. Alterman Director and Senior Fellow, CSIS Middle East Program

"Iran’s uranium and plutonium programs are still a concern for U.S. security and are still operating in violation of binding UN Security Council resolutions. … That being said, the fact that Iran appears to have voluntarily ended its nuclear weapons program in response to international pressure shows that outside influence can change Iran’s behavior." (CSIS Paper, Dec. 4, 2007)

Gary Samore
Former Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council and Current Director of Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

"The halting of the weaponization program in 2003 is less important from a proliferation standpoint than resumption of the enrichment program in 2006." (The Los Angeles Times, Dec 7, 2007)

John R. Bolton
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Current Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

"In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE. Moreover, the distinction between ‘military’ and ‘civilian’ programs is highly artificial, since the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's ‘civilian’ program that posed the main risk of a nuclear ‘breakout.'" (The Washington Post, Dec. 6, 2007)

George Perkovich
Director of the Nonproliferation Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"Iranian leaders appear to have recognized that by staying within the rules they can acquire capabilities sufficient to impress their own people and intimidate their neighbors, without inviting tough international sanctions or military attack." (The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 7, 2007)

Peter Brookes
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Current, Senior Fellow, Heritage Foundation

"There is still plenty of reason to worry about the current and future state of Iran's atomic ambitions… So the question remains whether the Iranian work stoppage is a short-term, tactical decision or a long-term strategic one. While the NIE provides the basis for some (extremely) cautious optimism, it simultaneously reinforces the need for deep concern and continued vigilance." (The Boston Herald, Dec. 5, 2007)

Robert D. Blackwill
Former Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Planning and Former U.S. Ambassador to India

"This latest NIE gives us a few more years to use diplomatic efforts than we previously thought… Iranian possession of nuclear weapons would have devastating strategic consequences for the West. Should Iran go nuclear, how many Sunni Arab regimes would follow suit? And, should that happen, who believes that in a Middle East with multiple nuclear weapons states, we would not eventually have a nuclear catastrophe in the region, or even a nuclear attack on an American city?" (The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 6, 2007)

Anthony H. Cordesman
Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, Center for Strategic and International Studies

"On the one hand, it indicates that Iran suspended a nuclear weapons effort in 2003, and is susceptible to international pressure and negotiation… It does not in any way indicate that the UN effort to prevent further Iranian weapons development is unnecessary or that further sanctions are not needed to limit or halt Iran’s efforts…" (CSIS Paper, Dec. 4, 2007)

Patrick Clawson
Deputy Director for Research, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

"The reality is that the estimate says little about whether Iran still aims to produce nuclear weapons or when it might do so. The NIE's information supports the theory that Iran has simply changed the sequencing of its nuclear weapons effort — not necessarily the theory that Iran is no longer pursuing nuclear weapons." (Washington Institute Policy Watch, Dec. 4, 2007)


The New York Times

"The new report is not an argument for anyone to let down their guard when it comes to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. What it does say is that some combination of intensified pressures and opportunities might — ‘if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible’ — prompt Tehran to ‘extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.'" (Dec. 5, 2007)

The Wall Street Journal

"In any case, the real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale — that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. No less a source than the IAEA recently confirmed that Iran already has blueprints to cast uranium in the shape of an atomic bomb core. … Even assuming that Iran is not seeking a bomb right now, it is hardly reassuring that they are developing technologies that could bring them within a screw's twist of one." (Dec. 5, 2007)

The Washington Post

"While U.S. intelligence agencies have ‘high confidence’ that covert work on a bomb was suspended ‘for at least several years’ after 2003, there is only ‘moderate confidence’ that Tehran has not restarted the military program. Iran’s massive overt investment in uranium enrichment meanwhile proceeds in defiance of binding U.N. resolutions, even though Tehran has no legitimate use for enriched uranium. The U.S. estimate of when Iran might produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb — sometime between late 2009 and the middle of the next decade — hasn’t changed." (Dec. 5, 2007)

Source: AIPAC

Even Russia and China joined the U.S., France, Britain, and Germany within the U.N. Council to prevent Iran from continuing the enrichment process and even while I believe the U.N. is NOT the end all be all solution to the stand-off, prior to the release of the NIE, the Security Council seemed willing to support a third round of tougher sanctions. As noted in my December posting the recent and flawed NIE report of December 2007 provide little comfort and is one reason why some are writing, "How America's own intelligence services have brought international policy on Iran to the edge of collapse."

2008 may yet provide Iran with an opportunity to relentless pursue its enrichment program while the world focuses on the U.S. Presidential race. As important as the next U.S. President may be, we cannot afford to allow the race to dim our view ... obscure our judgment. We must not lose sight of the fact that it was Iran, not outsiders who, in April 2007, indicated that they had the ability to enrich Uranium. "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran has the ability to enrich uranium on an industrial scale, which is part of the process to make fuel for nuclear bomb or reactor." (NY Times April 2007)

For my previous references to Iran's nuclear threat click here, here, here and here.

Over to you


Karen said...

Wow, Otto. This is quite the post. I was cruising all the way through, nodding my head in agreement.

Well done.

Don't worry, though. President-elect Obama or Clinton will just talk to the Madman in charge there and it'll all be ok.

American Interests said...

Karen: Thanks for your thoughts; have since provided links to the current professional profiles of the named, non-proliferation experts… President-elect Obama ? Let’s not go there… Finally, thanks for “The Land down Under” post…

Incognito said...

And yet, which country is helping them with all the nuclear proliferation..... ? Russia...

Debbie said...

This is an amazing post given all the quotes and sources. Seems to be we should really be concerned, but that doesn't appear to be the situation in Washington, on the surface.

Russia has been suppplying nuclear material to Iran, building their nuclear sites, etc. I don't trust Russia at all.

How about John Bolton for President? I could bet behind him for sure.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

American Interests said...

incognito: exactly, yet another foe...thanx for coming around...

debbie: I think or at least, am hoping, that there exists an undercurrent of concern in Washington. One things certain however, it ain't a big a talking point amongst most of the Presidential hopefuls.

WomanHonorThyself said...

Great work Otto!
Iran has no need for nuclear energy because of its immense oil and natural gas reserves..but HOW else will they try to destroy Israel!!!

American Interests said...

angel: John Bolton, the "angriest Neocon" for President! Great Satan will see to Iran soon...

MK said...

Good work Otto.

Obama and Hillary, talk to Iran, no way. They'll be too busy 'carefully' screwing over Iraq and all the gains made to date by withdrawing and considering 'carefully' invading Pakistan because you know, they have the stomach for that war.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...


Good post. I'm glad you added "links to the current professional profiles." This is a good "reality check."

About Russia: I can't figure that country's leadership out. They're quite un-Islamic, from the Ayatollah's point of view, and yet they seem to be helping these Islamic zealots develop nuclear weapons - that could almost reach Moscow now.

I'd think, after the WWII experience, that Russian leaders would have more sense about allying themselves with a regime with plans that are clearly not in Russia's interests.

Finally, thanks for saving me some work. I was going to write a post on a closely related topic: now I don't have to.

American Interests said...

Brian http://anotherwaronterrorblog.blogspot.com/: Your comments on Russia are interesting, I too cannot understand the purpose of a cosy relationship given the lessons of history. Thanks for visiting...

American Interests said...

mk: Oh they might to Iran alright, for all the wrong reasons...

Jim said...

Iran is clearly still working on nuclear weapons. That has been pretty clear regardless of last fall's NIE, but what are we going to do about it?

What is the best way to stop it? Kissinger thinks diplomacy is the only way to stop them. Tuesday's National Threat Assessment says Iran must make a political decision to stop and our bombing plans are half-ass pin pricks that won't get the underground locations.

We laugh at their lunacy but where does that get us? We are dealing with an aggressive, powerful (in the region) state that wants a the same thing it has wanted for a 80 years - a bigger piece of the pie.

We need to discuss how to solve the problem because we can and do it in a way that increases security, our prestige in the region and our GDP.

Tapline said...

Otto, Outstanding post. much research....We do have a problem and I don't know why Bush started backpeddling.....But I'm sure we will find out....stay well...

American Interests said...

Jim: In several posts now, I have expressed my concerns about Iran’s getting a bomb, but like many a commentator I too, am guilty of failing to offer any suggestions as to how to stop them. The bombing plans are not "sales pitches for munitions manufacturers", but I see your point. Indeed, there are holes in the plans...

The U.S. may benefit by ramping up the diplomatic pressure, while concurrently building a politically tolerable outlet; one that may be acceptable in the face-off with Western negotiators. All the while, making it abundantly clear, even within the public domain, actually, expecially within thids domain, that the cessation of enrichment will be rewarded by substantial easing of pressure on the part of Washington or whoever it may be that’s coordinating discussions.

Of course, it is more complex than this, but it ought to be apparent by now, that the present strategy, if indeed there is one, is not working…

Thank you for visiting American Interests, please feel free to chime in occasionally..

American Interests said...

tap: You are correct tap, there does appear to be some backpeddling...Lord knows why...

TRUTH-PAIN said...


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American Interests Realgrid Writing said...

TP: Am humbled by your praise...thanks for coming by....