I figured we could all use a break from the Cain stuff to squeeze in a post about the most important story in the world.
We’re all neocons now, my friends. Except, I guess, for Ron Paul.
United Nations weapons inspectors released a trove of new evidence on Tuesday that they say makes a “credible” case that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device” and that the project may still be under way…
The report laid out the case that Iran had moved far beyond the blackboard to create computer models of nuclear explosions in 2008 and 2009 and conducted experiments on nuclear triggers. It said the simulations focused on how shock waves from conventional explosives could compress the spherical fuel at the core of a nuclear device — the signature of implosion.
The report also said Iran went beyond such theoretical studies to build a large containment vessel at its Parchin military base, starting in 2000, for testing the experimental feasibility of such explosive compression. It called such experiments “strong indicators of possible weapon development.”…
The report corroborates the conclusion of a much-debated classified National Intelligence Estimate issued in 2007 that Iran had dismantled a highly focused effort to build a bomb in late 2003. The new report describes recent work conducted in a less coordinated manner.
Ah, okay. So the infamous 2007 NIE that claimed Iran had stopped working on nuclear weapons didn’t actually mean that Iran had stopped working on weapons, merely that their program had become more dispersed and secretive. What a treat to find that out four years later, after everyone in the western world took that report to mean the problem had been more or less solved for the time being and therefore a military strike should be completely, totally off the table. In fact, the White House seems to be taking that position even in the teeth of this damning new assessment from the IAEA. Said one senior U.S. official reacting to the new claims, “The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program nor does it have a program about how advanced the programs really are.” Duly noted. Everything’s cool.
This is the point, I take it, when longtime HA readers are being seized by deja vu and wondering whether they haven’t read this story before. Answer: No, you haven’t, but you’ve read a lot of very similar stories for a very long time. Even from Obama’s earliest days in office, the White House has been plain about what they think Iran’s doing with its nuclear “energy” program. More than two years ago, the IAEA warned that Iran was hard at work on a missile system to deliver nuclear warheads. Even the big bombshell in today’s report, the claim that Iran has experimented with detonation systems designed to trigger a nuclear chain reaction, isn’t really a bombshell. WaPo was reporting back in December 2009 that a secret Iranian document showed they were tinkering with neutron initiators to detonate a bomb. The significance of today’s report isn’t the new information in it — on the contrary, the claims that Iran got help from Russian scientists and A.Q. Khan were as predictable as proliferation news gets — but simply that it’s the IAEA instead of those cowboys at the CIA that’s issuing it. They’re supposed to be the more sober, credible agency after the fiasco over Iraqi WMDs, but they were in the tank for Iran for years thanks to Mohammed ElBaradei, who saw himself more as a “secular pope” tasked with preventing war than as a guy charged with simply reporting on who was doing what with uranium.
The news stories about punishing Iran with a thousandth round of sanctions are already on the wires tonight, but I recommend reading this one from the LA Times. It’s a few days old but helpful in detailing just how reluctant the White House is to pursue truly biting sanctions on Iran’s central bank: It’s simply too risky to try that with the global economy this bad given what it might mean for oil prices, and if that’s too risky at this point, so is a bombing campaign. Read this excellent op-ed too on the state of Iran’s enrichment program. They’ve already enriched an usual amount of uranium to a level of purity they don’t need for energy purposes, and by early 2013 they’ll have reached full “breakout” capacity — meaning that they’ll have enough stockpiled HEU that they’ll be able bring it up to weapons-grade level and use that for a bomb in less than two weeks if need be. They’ll be in the same category as Japan at that point, holding a nuclear pistol in one hand and a uranium bullet in the other. All they have to do is chamber the round. No sweat.
Exit question: Time for Stuxnet II?