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August 9, 2006
Russian Fingerprints On Iranian Nuclear Program

Der Spiegel reports on the assistance given to Iran by the Russians in developing a uranium-enrichment program despite Moscow's public opposition to its development. The introduction of Russian laser technology allows the Iranians to enrich uranium more efficiently and with less energy, moving them that much closer to production of weapons-grade material:

Despite claims to the contrary, leaders in Tehran are apparently still pushing forward with research into uranium enrichment with the aid of laser technology. A Russian engineer recently told SPIEGEL that Iran has received help from his countrymen with a program that uses a laser system to divide heavy isotopes. The engineer, who works for an institute near Moscow and helps develop nucleaar reactors, claims that Iranians have since 2004 sought and secured technical aid from Russia for their domestic "laser system for the division of heavy isotopes" program.

The laser technique would have important advantages for Iran. Uranium is often enriched using gas centrifuges, but the laser technique uses less energy, requires less space and yields more of the crucial materials -- Uranium 235 and Plutonium 239. Until now, though, the technology has been elusive for Iran.

Supposedly Iran stopped working on this technology three years ago. At least that's what Teheran told the IAEA and Mohammed ElBaradei in August 2003, three years after first requesting technological assistance from the Russians. The expatriate group National Council of Resistance, which has provided critical intelligence on Iranian nuclear research in the past, has claimed that the demurral was nothing more than a ruse, and that the Iranians have never stopped their efforts on laser technology. Der Spiegel's Russian source now corroborates that claim.

The increasingly unstable behavior of the Iranian government has made them a great danger. If the Russians and Chinese continue to provide them technological assistance and diplomatic cover, then the West will have some decisions to make about their commitment to the international institutions that these three nations leverage to stymie the West. We cannot pretend any longer that our diplomatic engagement with Russia and China over Iran will ever result in the steps necessary to rein in the mullahcracy before it does something very, very crazy.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 9, 2006 10:14 PM

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Tracked on August 10, 2006 4:38 AM


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