The drums of war are beating again over Iran, but sadly it’s a representative of the Obama administration who wielded the heaviest drumstick.
Glyn Davies, the US representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), delivered what can only be called a one-sided and alarmist opinion about Iran’s ongoing nuclear enrichment program:
“This ongoing enrichment activity … moves Iran closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity. Taken in connection with Iran’s refusal to engage with the IAEA regarding its past nuclear warhead-related work, we have serious concerns that Iran is deliberately attempting, at a minimum, to preserve a nuclear weapons option.”
And the media piled on. Even though there was nothing new — the IAEA carefully monitors Iran’s enrichment efforts, and it keeps precise track of how much low-enriched uranium Iran has accumulated — the remarks from Davies triggered worrisome headlines across the board, from “US very concerned about Iran’s nuclear program” in the Washington Post to “Iran Rejects Compromise Over Its Nuclear Program” in the Wall Street Journal to “U.S. Says Iran Could Expedite Nuclear Bomb” in the New York Times.
Of all the stories, the Times piece — by William Broad, Mark Mazzetti, and David E. Sanger — was the most detailed. But it added to the alarm, writing in its first paragraph:
“American intelligence agencies have concluded in recent months that Iran has created enough nuclear fuel to make a rapid, if risky, sprint for a nuclear weapon.”
But then balancing that with:
“But new intelligence reports delivered to the White House say that the country has deliberately stopped short of the critical last steps to make a bomb.”
Way, way down in the Times story, and barely mentioned in the breathless coverage of the Iranian nuclear issue generally, is this important caveat:
“To create a bomb it would have to convert its existing stockpile of low-enriched uranium into bomb-grade material. International inspectors, who visit Natanz regularly, would presumably raise alarms. Iran would also have to produce or buy a working weapons design, complete with triggering devices, and make it small enough to fit in one of its missiles.”
In all of the hubbub over Iran’s nuclear program, there are several indisputable facts: (1) Iran’s low-enriched uranium (LEU) is of no use at all for building a bomb; (2) in order to make a bomb, Iran would have to process all of its LEU into weapons-grade, high-enriched uranium, a not-so-easy thing to do; (3) even so, Iran only has enough LEU for a single bomb, even it could process it into HEU, and one bomb does not an arsenal make, especially since Iran would have to test its weapon, thereby using it all up; (4) any moves to produce HEU, as the Times correctly notes, would immediately be noticed by the IAEA inspectors, setting off alarms; (5) Iran probably doesn’t have the know-how at present to construct a working nuclear weapon, even if it acquired enough HEU; and (6) Iran doesn’t have a missile system capable of delivering a bomb. That doesn’t mean that President Ahmadinejad and some of his cohorts in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps wouldn’t dearly love to have a bomb, but it does mean that the world community, including the IAEA and the P5 + 1 group of negotiating countries has plenty of time to work out a diplomatic solution to the impasse.