Iran reversed itself today and finally admitted that it had imported parts for nuclear centrifuges designed to create weapons-grade fissile material, but still claims that the US falsely accuses it of pursuing a nuclear-weapons program, according to the AP and CNN. The AP covers the Iranian reversal:
In a reversal, Iran has acknowledged importing parts for advanced centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium, the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Tuesday in a confidential report obtained by The Associated Press. …
In an interview with The Associated Press before the report was leaked, U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton accused Tehran of engaging in “denial and deception. … We are convinced that they are pursuing a clandestine program to acquire nuclear weapons,” he said. …
Iran has rejected the U.S. allegations, saying its nuclear program is geared only toward generating electricity.
CNN, meanwhile, covers another aspect of the IAEA report that looks pretty damning as well:
The inspectors found that the enrichment level on the centrifuge parts was at 36 percent — a level typically found only at Russian nuclear reactors.
This means Iran either has been importing nuclear material or has been enriching uranium itself, both of which Tehran has denied, said a Western diplomat who is intricately familiar with the IAEA.
The US remains adamant that Iran has an active, clandestine nuclear-weapons development program. The European nations, notably (surprise) France, want to take a softer line with Iran, preferring to work with the Iranians to nudge them into compliance than risk a showdown. However, even the IAEA, which normally would favor the softer line, says that their patience is running thin with the Iranian government:
The 21-page report said “good progress” is being made toward reaching a conclusion about Iran’s nuclear program. It compliments Tehran for its cooperation, but also notes that Iran officials have sometimes not been forthcoming with information and other times sought to delay inspections.
One source close to the IAEA didn’t parse words over the delays, saying Iran “continues to dribble out information” and it’s “annoying as hell.”
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said inspectors are continuing to go into Iran almost constantly. “Inspections will continue until outstanding questions are answered,” she said.
If the Iranians had been telling the truth, they would have revealed the existence of the centrifuges and their importation. They make it apparent that they’re hiding something, and the IAEA and the various nations involved in squeezing compliance out of the mullahs need to keep digging. The Anglo-American effort to depose Saddam made an impression on the area, and we cannot allow France or other nations to “soften” the approach now.
Make no mistake about it: the Iranian mullahs see themselves as the leader in the fight against Western civilization and would like nothing better than to eventually gain hegemony over the entire area of Asia Minor. Having access to uranium in any case should give everyone pause; they sponsor or control Hezb’ Allah and Islamic Jihad, and inspire many other terrorists and their organizations. Even without fission, those groups could use that radioactive material for so-called dirty bombs. However, if the Iranians develop a nuke, the danger would be far greater than that of North Korea’s program. North Korea may be paranoid, but Iranians’ motivation is profoundly expansionist and fanatical.
The US has to keep the pressure on the Iranian mullahs to disarm, and must also ensure that the Western nations don’t go wobbly. We lost the initiative with North Korea in 1994 and wound up with a fait accompli, and now have to tiptoe around Pyongyang to achieve security for our East Asian allies. If Iran goes nuclear, expect to see demands for American withdrawal from the Persian Gulf, with Tel Aviv as the Iranian hostage for this century.