A member of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, Prince Turki al-Faisal, has said that if there is news from Iran that the regime is close to developing nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia would be compelled “to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences.”
He did not elaborate on this statement but a senior official in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia clarified that if Iran goes nuclear, the Saudi Kingdom will be forced to “follow suit.” He stated that his country will not stand for losing a nuclear arms race to Iran.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been opposing powers in Middle East affairs for many years, and now this conflict has reached new frightening levels.
Once again Ahmadienajd has insisted that Iran is not building a nuclear weapons arsenal. He added that should the Islamic Republic choose to do so, “no one can do a damn thing.”
These statements come a mere two weeks after the chief of Iranian atomic organization announced plans to triple the regime’s uranium-enriching capabilities. Tehran claims the enriched uranium will be used to fuel future nuclear power plants, and not as material for atomic warheards.
In today’s Washington Post
U.N. nuclear inspectors, citing evidence of an apparently ongoing effort by Iran to obtain new technologies, publicly suggested for the first time Thursday that the country is actively seeking to develop a weapons capability.
According to the IAEA report, experiments related to nuclear explosives continued beyond 2004—which contradicts U.S. intelligence claims that such activities ceased in 2003.
Iran has amassed upwards of two tons of enriched uranium—sufficient for an atomic bomb. Using centrifuges at the Natanz facility, the material could be enriched to weapons grade quality within a year and a half.
You can read the Washington Post story here.
The IAEA report can be viewed here.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasted yesterday that the regime has succeeded in enriching uranium to a level of 20%, and that his country now possessed the ability to enrich it to weapons grade levels.
Although he has also said they do not believe in making nuclear bombs, MEMRI reports that “the conservative daily Kayhan, which is close to [supreme leader Ali] Khamenei, even stated in a February 9 editorial… that the minute Iran enriches uranium to 20%, the West will not be able to stop it from advancing further. At that point, Iran will not agree to stop at 20%, and the negotiations will be over enrichment to a higher level.”
How long could it take to enrich to weapons grade? Enrichment gets exponentially easier the further you go, meaning that once you get to 20%, it’s only a short leap to finish the job.
While it can’t be proven that their goal is WMDs, there are many worrying signs about the actual intent of the program.
Nuclear weapons cannot be allowed into the hands of the largest state sponsor of terror in the world. This cannot afford to be entertained as a legitimate possibility. Among the options currently being pursued to stop the regime are sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps which props up the government. Additionally, United Against a Nuclear Iran is directly going after companies that do business with Iran, as another way of pressuring the regime.
Iran has announced it plans on further enriching its uranium stockpile. As the LA Times reports
Any move by Iran to produce a 20%-enriched nuclear fuel supply could provoke Western nations and Israel, which allege that Tehran ultimately plans to build atomic bombs. Uranium enriched at the current 3.5% level can fuel civilian power plants; moves toward enriching it beyond 20% could suggest a goal of making weapons.
There are a number of very worrisome issues with Iran’s nuclear program. First, there’s no need for the Iranians to enrich fuel for civilian energy purposes, since the fuel for the Busehr reactor is being provided by the Russians. Also, although the Iranian regime would say mastering nuclear enrichment may be a matter of national pride, it doesn’t make fiscal sense for the second largest oil producer in the Middle-East to be developing an extraordinarily expensive nuclear program—compounded by the brutal economic difficulties the country finds itself in.
Regarding Iranian claims that the purpose of 20% enriched uranium is for use in a medical reactor, the LA Times reports, “only France and Argentina have the facilities to turn the material into the fuel plates for the reactor.” Unless some agreement can be reached with these countries, Iran would be left with a stockpile of useless material.
While getting to 3.5% enrichment is a major technological feat, enriching to 20% “would be going most of the rest of the way to weapon-grade uranium," as David Albright, an official with Washington's Institute for Science and International Security, told the Associated Press. On top of this, it was reported months ago that Iran possessed enough uranium—if further enriched— to make a nuclear bomb.
Former CIA director Jim Woolsey said in a 2007 hearing before the House
“The traces of highly-enriched (not just fuelgrade) uranium, their deception, their heavy water plant and other indicators brand their program as one designed to develop nuclear weapons even in the absence of considering their rhetoric about destroying Israel and ending the world”
You can read the LA Times article here.
The fight against a nuclear Iran and support for the self-determination of the Iranian people go hand in hand, as Mehdi Khalaji, a scholar with the Washington Institute, pointed out in testimony before Congress last week.
Peace in the region and democracy in Iran now seem to be inseparable, because the same forces that threaten the peace are the same powers in Iran who threaten democracy and run the repressive machinery against the Iranian people. The threat to regional peace and Iranian democracy are the same: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is not only the main body in charge of the Iranian nuclear program, but also is the most effective means for political suppression in the hands of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's leader and commander-in-chief.
Democracy and peace can be achieved through weakening the military government in Tehran and pressuring the IRGC. The two parallel tracks -- the international community's effort for peace and the Iranian people's democratic movement -- naturally reinforce each other, because they fight with the same enemy.
Among some of the solutions Khalaji suggests are weakening the IRGC, which also threatens U.S. interests by weakening Sunni-Muslim allies of the West, sabotaging the middle-East peace process, and by trying to sabotage the positive developments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
J. Scott Carpenter, who testified with Khalaji, talked about sanctions as another vital tool to address the threat. These include sanctions influencing the IRGC's political and business interests. Khalaji pointed out that the IRGC and its affiliates “control one third of Iran’s income, dominating construction, oil field services, and telecommunications, among other industries.” Targeted sanctions could also include the threat of gasoline embargo against a regime dependent on other countries to refine the oil it produces.
We can help strengthen the democratic movement by helping the Iranian people connect with the outside world, in the face of a regime which spends billions of dollars trying to prevent this.
The major internet companies in the West could work with activists to find ways to bypass Iran's internet censors. Companies that provide Iran with the technology of surveillance and suppression should be named and shamed; consumers should shy away from these companies' products, and governments should urge these companies to reconsider their practices… New measures and mechanisms are needed to stop Iran from breaking international law.
As citizens we can contact our Congressmen to push for sanctions on groups like the IRGC, we can work together to develop boycotts against groups aiding the regime’s oppression of its citizens, and we can give support to the Iranian people, to help inform the world of what is happening inside and build global support for their struggle.
By doing so, we help fight for the universal human rights of the Iranian people, at the same time as we fight for the security of all other nations—including our own—threatened by this regime.
You can read the testimony of Mehdi Khalaji and J. Scott Carpenter here.
From a humanitarian rights perspective, it’s not hard to be moved by the—at times brutal—suppression of the opposition movement building in Iran. For those of us who cherish freedoms like speech and self-determination, it’s not hard to be moved by the images of people killed in protests, and the reports of academic institutions being cleansed of suspected agitators.
At the same time, it may also be easy for some of us to say that these events, half a world away, don’t personally impact our lives. We may then excuse ourselves from any meaningful involvement in the cause. In a recent Op Ed, scholar Mehdi Khalaji shows that this thinking is mistaken. He points out that the regime’s current foreign policy is directly tied to the unrest in the country; this includes negotiations on their nuclear program. Khalaji writes:
[Supreme Leader] Khamenei's foreign policy is now completely subject to how the domestic situation in Iran develops. As recent months have shown, he will consider a compromise with the West only when he loses his certainty that all is under control internally. It is like a seesaw: Khamenei's domestic weakness changes the balance of Iran's foreign policy…
Support of human rights and democracy in Iran is not only a matter of morality. It should be a strategic priority for the West. Empowering the Iranian people means weakening Khamenei and his military allies. And a weakened Khamenei is more likely to compromise on the nuclear front.
You can read the full article here.
Amidst another wave of opposition demonstrations in Iran, the Guardian reports the following regarding what Iranian supreme leader Ali Khameini is willing to do to hold onto power.
"Mohammad Khatami [Iran's reformist former president] was asked during a visit to Washington last year why he hadn't done more to resist Khamenei," he said. "He replied that it was because Khamenei is determined to fight his enemies if they come to the streets and that he is ready to kill up to 200,000 people. There are many pieces of evidence that confirm Khatami's understanding that Khamenei is prepared to kill more people.
We’ve written about Iran’s nuclear ambitions in previous posts. If Khamenei is willing to kill this many of his own citizens for their pursuit of human rights, it’s reasonable to suggest he would be much less reserved when it comes to killing non-Iranians he also judged to be his enemies.
The Times of London has just published details from a confidential Iranian document showing that the regime “is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb.”
According the story, the document was produced by the military command structure, and describes “a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion.”
The neutron source has no known use other than in a nuclear weapon.
Sky News reports that the document states “At present, our capabilities are reasonably good, although obviously not complete.” The report was written in 2007. If the story is true, the Iranian military is likely now further along in development.
Is this a smoking gun? Or is this a repeat of alleged WMDs in Iraq?
Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London… said: “Is this the smoking gun? That’s the question people should be asking. It looks like the smoking gun. This is smoking uranium.”
According to David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector who reviewed the document for the Times, "It looks bad -- there is no doubt about it."
You can read the full Times article here.
One of the underlying themes in recent reports of Iran's recently revealed enrichment facility is that the Iranian government has been deceiving the international community about its activities. Deception or outright lying by the revolutionary government is nothing new. Abbas Milani pointed out this behavior last year, in reference to an NIE report on Iran's activities. Recently, there have also been reports from the UN that the Iranians are capable of building an atomic weapon, and a resistance group has reported that they are actively working on weaponization. Given this, who knows what else they have been hiding, both in terms of their infrastructure and capabilities, as well as their plans for the future in the event they begin building a functional arsenal?