The Mullahs' Apocalypse Now
The Mullahs' Apocalypse Now
By Frank Crimi
A report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has cited "increasing concerns" that Iran is edging ever closer toward the development of nuclear weapons. Adding fuel to those concerns is that the release of the UN report came only days before the Islamist state's nuclear power plant at Bushehr finally came online for the first time.
Specifically, the nine-page IAEA report cited "extensive" evidence that Iran, in defiance of UN-imposed sanctions, has not suspended its "enrichment-related activities." Instead, Iran has boosted the production of enriched uranium and upgraded it closer to the level of nuclear weapons-grade. Furthermore, the IAEA found the Iranians continuing to work on heavy water-related projects, including the construction of a heavy water research reactor.
The IAEA report also cited concern over Iran moving its nuclear fuel production program to a well-protected underground bunker outside the Iranian holy city of Qum, a move made earlier in 2011 by the Iranians in an attempt to better protect the program from an air or cyber attack.
The Iranian actions have led the IAEA to conclude that it is unable to provide "credible assurance" about the absence of undeclared nuclear material in Iran. However, what the IAEA could confirm was that it was receiving new information about "activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
That finding, however, should come as little surprise given that an analysis from the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has cited Iran's own admission that since 2007 it has produced more than 4,500 kilograms of enriched uranium, enough to make four nuclear weapons.
For those who believe Iran is in the final laps in its race to develop nuclear weapons, those fears were further amplified when the release of the IAEA report was shortly followed by Iran's declaration that its Bushehr nuclear power plant had finally come online. Despite being dogged by years of delays, the nuclear plant, built with Russian assistance, has now begun producing nuclear fuel for Iran's national electrical grid
Somewhat surprisingly, the Iranian response to the IAEA report was decidedly upbeat, given the Islamist state has repeatedly claimed over the years that Western demands against its nuclear program have been politically driven and without merit.
In fact, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asgshar Soltanieh, went so far as to say the IAEA report had some positive parts, calling it "a step forward." Apparently he believed the report actually verified Iran's transparency about its nuclear program. According to Soltanieh, the IAEA had really discovered "The cooperation of our country (Iran) in the provision of information and clearing up ambiguities."
Taking the cooperation theme to the next level, Fereydoun Abbasi, director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), then offered to halt Iran's four-year attempt to stop the IAEA from investigating intelligence reports that Iran was conducting work on several components of a nuclear weapons program, including designing blueprints for a nuclear missile.
Instead, Abbasi proffered to open up Iran's nuclear program to full IAEA supervision in exchange for the UN ending all the embargos it had levied against the Islamist state since 2006. Currently, Iran is under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze enrichment activities.
However, Abbasi's offer came with a small, but significant caveat. Regardless of what the UN decided, the Iranians still have no intention of stopping production of their enriched-uranium program, a program they have steadfastly maintained is strictly for energy and medical purposes.
It should be noted that Abbasi was also the man who had earlier stated that move of its nuclear enrichment program to an underground facility made Iran able to produce nuclear fuel in much greater amounts than it needs for producing medical isotopes. It was an admission some intelligence officials believe indicates Iran plans to use the extra nuclear fuel to build weapons or to train Iranian scientists to produce bomb-grade fuel.
Not surprisingly, Abbasi's offer was viewed quite favorably by other Iranian officials. Iranian security analyst Mojtaba Bigdeli felt the offer was so generous that it provided the West a "golden opportunity provided by Iran's goodwill."
For his part, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was also doing his best to bolster Iran's goodwill image. In an interview with Russian radio, Ahmadinejad went to great lengths to reassure the world that Islam precludes Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.
In the interview Ahmadinejad said that Iran's religious beliefs mandated that the Islamist state could not embark on developing nuclear weapons, so any fears to the contrary were simply grounded in religious ignorance. According to Ahmadinejad, Iran had no desire to pursue or possess nuclear arms because "These weapons are directed against people. We oppose them because of our religious beliefs…our religion says that they are prohibited."
Rather, Ahmadinejad claimed the pursuit of nuclear arms to be just an antiquated and useless 20th century concept, one which required a nation to devote too many precious resources that could otherwise be used for much better and more humanitarian purposes. As he stated, "The new century is an era of knowledge and thought, an era of people, culture and logic."
As if to show Iran's commitment to a new Age of Enlightenment, Ahmadinejad's comments were followed days later by Iran's Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Eshaq Ale-Habib, calling for a complete world-wide ban of nuclear weapons. Habib claimed that nuclear disarmament was such a pressing issue that Iran felt compelled to make it a top priority of the international community.
Yet, the high road pronouncements emanating from Ahmadinejad and Habib notwithstanding, a more indicative answer to Iran's real aims probably came in comments made by AEOI director Fereydoun Abbasi shortly after the release of the IAEA report.
In response to questions concerning Iranian policy on future nuclear program negotiations, Abbasi said that the extent of Iran's nuclear progress had changed the preconditions for Iranian talks with the IAEA and other countries. As such, Abase concluded, "Technically speaking, we should push ahead with our plans."
Unfortunately for the world, those Iranian plans draw nearer to completion by the day.