Friday, November 16, 2007

Russia to Ship Nuclear Fuel to Iran

Russia’s Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrate Plant will soon start shipping nuclear fuel to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power reactor. The state-run nuclear fuel producer has invited IAEA inspectors to begin sealing the fuel for shipment to Iran later in the month (Reuters, 16 November).

The report of the fuel shipment came hours after China prevented the Group of 5+1 to hold a meeting to discuss a new round of UN sanctions against Iran. China argues that the IAEA report which was released yesterday shows Iran is seriously cooperating with the UN watchdog agency and as a result no further sanctions are needed at this point.

US had pushed for new sanctions because according to the report Tehran was providing “diminishing” information about its current nuclear activities. Chinese pullout from the meeting of 5+1 Group has all but killed the chance of any new UN sanctions resolution in the coming weeks or months.

Tehran was a happy place today. Iran declared unqualified victory after IAEA released its report. President Ahmadinejad immediately took credit for his uncompromising stand against US pressure to halt uranium enrichment activities and called on US to apologize for accusing Iran of seeking nuclear bomb.

The celebrations in Tehran, however, might be premature. While the IAEA report shows a satisfactory level of cooperation with Iran in clarifying the program’s past, it confirms that Iran has reached 3,000 enrichment centrifuges, enough to produce a bomb within a year if it desired. It also indicates the “diminishing” level of information on Iran’s current nuclear program. The report might have delayed any immediate crisis for Iran, but it has not closed down the book on the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. Too much celebrations too early is not advised!

China's prevention of reaching a consensus might have unintended consequences. The US and the West will now accelerate their own sanctions regime against Iran and the US and Israel might be forced to think of an emerging nuclear Iran and the ways to stop it