Monday, February 25, 2008

Iran Challenged on Nuclear Program

The IAEA report did clear up a number of ambiguities in the program’s past. But it added a major problem for Iran: IAEA said a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program is of “serious concern” and as a result it could not say if the program was/is peaceful.

The Iranian government declared “victory” over the report, calling the evidence on Green Salt project “baseless” and “fabricated.” Green Salt allegedly was a program to produce uranium metal, detonators, and warheads which together form the structure of a nuclear weapon program. President Ahmadinejad said in a TV interview that the alleged evidence could have been fabricated by “any fifth-grader with access to a computer” [IRIB, Channel 1; 24 February].

IAEA deputy chief and head of safeguard, Olli Heinonen, today briefed the IAEA board members on details supporting the agency’s report. AFP reports that the Iranian ambassador to IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was so enraged at Heinonen’s presentation, especially his briefing on the evidence supporting the existence of the Green Salt project that Heinonen had to calm him twice and to ask him to stay on the subject [AFP, 25 February].

I have argued before in this site that Iran could have easily accepted the fact that it was indeed studying the weaponization program, but it halted those activities in 2003. As is, the government has cornered itself. It has to repeat that the evidence is fabricated and could be the work of a fifth-grader and so on, then to be “enraged” when the evidence are shown at an IAEA board briefing.

These are not the finest hours for Iranian diplomacy. Senior diplomats from the six major powers gathered today in Washington and agreed on a two-track strategy on Iran nuclear issue. They will pass a new round of sanctions at UN Security Council in the next few days while offering Tehran negotiations if it halted its uranium enrichment activities.

The severity of the new sanctions, or lack of, however, will not be the big news. The significance of such move at UNSC will be the “Yes” vote by Russia and China.

The US will add its own set of severe sanctions. There are widespread reports that US will blacklist the Central Bank of Iran. The EU, or at least the major European powers, can take similar measure. Sanctioning Bank Markazi, the Central Bank, would be a disaster for Iran. It will severely disrupt its international trade and banking transactions.

Calling the IAEA report a “victory” for the Iranian nation is like living in a parallel universe. It’s an eerie feeling in Tehran these days that the leaders might have lost touch with realities.


Anonymous said...

Iran leader hails Ahmadinejad for 'nuclear success'

by Stuart Williams

26 Feb 2008

TEHRAN (AFP) - Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday hailed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's role in the "great success" of the nuclear programme, amid threats of new sanctions against Tehran.

Khamenei also hailed the Iranian people and the conservative-controlled parliament in his remarks, which came just days after the UN atomic watchdog issued a key report on Iran's controversial atomic drive.

"One of the examples of achievements in last 29 years (since the Islamic revolution) is the nuclear issue," Khamenei told Iran's elite clerical body the Assembly of Experts, in comments broadcast on state television.

"Here the Iranian nation has rightfully and justly reached a great success and a remarkable achievement."

According to the state radio announcer, Khamenei also said: "The personal role of the president and his resistance in the nuclear case is very clear."

....As well as praising the hardline Ahmadinejad, Khamenei also took a swipe at reformists who dominated the previous Iranian parliament (2000-2004) and had suggested making concessions in the nuclear standoff.

"Alongside the resistance of the people, the seventh parliament (sitting from 2004-2008), unlike some in the previous period, really stood and insisted" on the nuclear issue, he said.

"I do not know how to thank people who have stood up all over the country over the nuclear issue," Khamenei added.

....Ahmadinejad has sometimes been criticised in Iran for his confrontational nuclear stance, but the comments by Khamenei indicate he has the backing of the Islamic republic's undisputed number one in the atomic crisis.


Anonymous said...

Gareth Porter is a well regarded investigative journalist and he's been watching the political developments between the United States and Iran closely.

POLITICS: Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group

By Gareth Porter

29 Feb 2008

WASHINGTON (IPS) - The George W. Bush administration has long pushed the "laptop documents" -- 1,000 pages of technical documents supposedly from a stolen Iranian laptop -- as hard evidence of Iranian intentions to build a nuclear weapon. Now charges based on those documents pose the only remaining obstacles to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declaring that Iran has resolved all unanswered questions about its nuclear programme.

But those documents have long been regarded with great suspicion by U.S. and foreign analysts. German officials have identified the source of the laptop documents in November 2004 as the Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK), which along with its political arm, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), is listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organisation.

There are some indications, moreover, that the MEK obtained the documents not from an Iranian source but from Israel's Mossad.

In its latest report on Iran, circulated Feb. 22, the IAEA, under strong pressure from the Bush administration, included descriptions of plans for a facility to produce "green salt", technical specifications for high explosives testing and the schematic layout of a missile reentry vehicle that appears capable of holding a nuclear weapon. Iran has been asked to provide full explanations for these alleged activities.

Tehran has denounced the documents on which the charges are based as fabrications provided by the MEK, and has demanded copies of the documents to analyse, but the United States had refused to do so.

The Iranian assertion is supported by statements by German officials. A few days after then Secretary of State Colin Powell announced the laptop documents, Karsten Voight, the coordinator for German-American relations in the German Foreign Ministry, was reported by the Wall Street Journal Nov. 22, 2004 as saying that the information had been provided by "an Iranian dissident group".

A German official familiar with the issue confirmed to this writer that the NCRI had been the source of the laptop documents. "I can assure you that the documents came from the Iranian resistance organisation," [MEK] the source said.

Full story Here.

Monday through Friday at 21:00 Eastern Time Mike Rivero from does a streaming audio feed on news of the day. It can be interesting, and Iranian-U.S. relations is often the topic. Here are the links:

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