IranIran Nuclear Watch

Iran Nuclear Watch: Iran Steps Up Uranium Enrichment

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Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a ceremony at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 220 miles south of Tehran, April 9, 2007. Inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran is starting to enrich uranium on a much larger scale after solving key technical problems in that process, The New York Times reported on Monday.

New York Times: Atomic Agency Concludes Iran Is Stepping Up Nuclear Work

Inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran appears to have solved most of its technological problems and is now beginning to enrich uranium on a far larger scale than before, according to the agency’s top officials.

The findings may change the calculus of diplomacy in Europe and in Washington, which aimed to force a suspension of Iran’s enrichment activities in large part to prevent it from learning how to produce weapons-grade material.

In a short-notice inspection of Iran’s operations in the main nuclear facility at Natanz on Sunday, conducted in advance of a report to the United Nations Security Council due early next week, the inspectors found that Iranian engineers were already using roughly 1,300 centrifuges and were producing fuel suitable for nuclear reactors, according to diplomats and nuclear experts here.

Until recently, the Iranians were having difficulty keeping the delicate centrifuges spinning at the tremendous speeds necessary to make nuclear fuel and were often running them empty or not at all.

Now, those roadblocks appear to have been surmounted. “We believe they pretty much have the knowledge about how to enrich,” said Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the energy agency, who clashed with the Bush administration four years ago when he declared that there was no evidence that Iraq had resumed its nuclear program. “From now on, it is simply a question of perfecting that knowledge. People will not like to hear it, but that’s a fact.”

What a surprise. Iran has stalled long enough andi ignored the United Nations Security Council enough to begin full scale uranium enrichment in order to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

So, what will the United States and Israel do?

A third round of United Nations Security Council sanctions.

And what will be the result, you ask?

Iran will stall and moan until they have achieved, like North Korea, ” BREAKOUT CAPABILITY.”

The inspectors have tested the output and concluded that Iran is producing reactor-grade uranium, enriched to a little less than 5 percent purity. But that still worries American officials and experts here at the I.A.E.A. If Iran stores the uranium and later runs it through its centrifuges for another four or five months, it can raise the enrichment level to 90 percent — the level needed for a nuclear weapon.

In the arcane terminology of nuclear proliferation, that is known as a “breakout capability,” the ability to throw inspectors out of the country and then produce weapons-grade fuel, as North Korea did in 2003.

Some Bush administration officials and some nuclear experts here at the I.A.E.A. and elsewhere suspect that the Iranians may not be driving for a weapon but rather for that “breakout capability,” because that alone can serve as a nuclear deterrent. It would be a way for Iran to make clear that it could produce a bomb on short notice, without actually possessing one.

One senior European diplomat, who declined to speak for attribution, said Washington would now have to confront the question of whether it wants to keep Iran from producing any nuclear material or whether it wants to keep Tehran from gaining the ability to build a weapon on short notice.

“The key decision you have to make right now,” the diplomat said, “is that if you don’t want the breakout scenario, you would have to freeze the Iranian program at a laboratory scale. Because if you continue this stalemate, that will bring you, eventually, to a breakout capability.”

As Flap has stated for weeks: “THE NUCLEAR POINT OF NO RETURN” has been reached.

But, will the United States have the political will to take military action against Iran?

Probably not…..and why not?

Let’s take a look at the polls:

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The American people by wide majorities do NOT favor military action against Iran.

And would President Bush with low approval ratings because of the Iraq War risk further alienation with a Democrat controlled Congress over Iran? Or impeachment?
Proably not

The direction of the Iran-United States conflict will be to “go along” with Iran, while Iran enriches enough uranium to reach “BREAKOUT CAPABILITY.” In other words, President Bush will punt this issue to the next President.

But, by then, it will be too late to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Will Israel wait?

Stay tuned…….

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The Iran Nuclear Files

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The Natanz uranium enrichment complex in Natanz is pictured in this January 2, 2006 satellite image.


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