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November 24, 2006
Has Teheran Reconsidered?

Iran has agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to review the operating records of its uranium enrichment program, opening its books in an attempt to show that its program poses no threat to the West. The development might indicate that the Iranians have had more trouble with their nuclear program than first thought:

Iran has agreed to crack open the books on its uranium enrichment activities, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Thursday -- a move that could give experts a better grasp of a program the Security Council fears could be misused to produce atomic bombs.

The concession appeared timed in hopes of heading off a rejection by the International Atomic Energy Agency of Iran's request for technical help in building its Arak plutonium-producing reactor. Unmoved, the IAEA's 35-nation board denied the aid for at least two years.

Tehran's decision to provide access to the operating records of its pilot uranium enrichment plant at Natanz came with another carrot -- a pledge to allow U.N. inspectors to take more samples from a facility that had yielded suspicious traces of enriched uranium.

The Iranians appear motivated towards their new-found openness due to some serious problems in their nuclear program. They applied for assistance on their Arak power plant from the IAEA, but their application got rejected for the next two years due to their intransigence on other matters before the agency. Their offer is intended to get the IAEA to reconsider its position and help get Arak on line.

This could mean a couple of different things. The Iranians could have built enough of a bogus front to fool the IAEA when they inspect their records. It also could mean that their efforts to build nuclear weapons have run aground, and that they haven't even worked out all the kinks for the necessary enrichment for the nuclear power plant they claim as their sole ambition. Otherwise, they would not set any store by IAEA assistance at all, especially after they've blown off Mohammed ElBaradei for the last few years.

Only a program failure could have gotten Teheran to reconsider cooperation with the IAEA. The US and the West should use this leverage to ensure that the Iranians come completely clean.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 24, 2006 5:45 AM

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