According to the much discussed report made last year by the National Intelligence (NIE) on the Iranian nuclear issue: “…in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”. As pointed out by Henry Kissinger on the Wp, though, it was only the construction of atomic warheads, a secondary aspect of the nuclear program that was stopped: namely the building of missiles that are supposed to contain the highly enriched uranium necessary and sufficient for an atomic bomb.
Not only. The NIE document estimated that Iran should not be regarded as a credible threat, due to the lack of a proper technology for producing enriched uranium, at least until 2015.
The recent experiment/simulation carried on by the Joint Research Committee of the European Union, instead, has toppled the NIE theory with a series of new designed experiments based on the “Theoretical Centrifuge and Cascade Simulator” (TCCS) which is useful for calculating the uranium enrichment capability through gas centrifuges like the ones in the Iranian nuclear plant of Natanz, for example.
As we can read in the document given to us by Berta Duane of the JRC: “The TCCS is being developed to simulate gas centrifuge enrichment plants. The results of these simulations are needed for studying safeguards of such facilities. The TCCS foresees two modules: The first uses engineering data (e.g.: centrifuge diameter, rotor material, …) to determine optimum centrifuge characteristics (e.g. position of the feed point, internal circulation rate, total separation factor, …). The second module then designs an optimum cascade configuration for a given number of available centrifuges”.
The scientists of the JRC – by taking in consideration the nuclear plant in Natanz – were capable to determine that, in the” worst” case scenario, Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear warhead by the end of 2010. Also considering the fact that – according to recent reports -Teheran’s regime could change the current aluminum centrifuges with new ones made in carbon fiber, a switch that could improve Iran’s uranium enrichment capability and save time in the meanwhile.
Andrea Loquenzi Holzer: In the face of the threat represented by Iran the International community is using “scarecrows” such as Un sanctions and the AIEA, is it an appropriate reaction ?
Michael Ledeen: Not nearly good enough. The main threat from Iran is terrorism, of which the mullahs are the leading supporters, and this matter is not being addressed at all. If Iran had a freely elected government it would most likely be pro-Western and “civilized,” in the sense of wanting to live in peace with its neighbors. That should be the goal of Western policy.
Danielle Pletka: The international community must do all it can to ensure the effectiveness of the sanctions regime in order to maximize the impact on Iran. If the sanctions regime is weak, or opposed by important nations such as China and Russia, it significantly increases the likelihood that the military option will be the only choice left available to those who will not tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Tehran regime.
Paolo Casaca: An international system of sanctions coupled with an active IAEA supervision seem to me to be an important tool for facing the threats of those who want to use nuclear weapons. Anyway, I think that before discussing the strategy to face the problem we should start by characterising the problem.
Iran has consistently worked in a secret nuclear programme whose rationality can be no other than producing a nuclear bomb.
This is indeed a vital element of the problem, but if we do not add three other elements we will not understand why it became so important at the World level.
The first element is the fanatic ideology of the regime and its sponsor and praise for suicidal terror acts. Iran is the only country that boasts publicly about having an army of volunteers ready to commit terror-suicide operations. Iran is the only country that employed thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – of its children as live cannon fodder in its war to “conquer Quods through Karbala”. Iran is the only country where its own former President boasted that to suffer the loss of three or four million of its citizens would not mean the annihilation of the country, but it would mean the end of Israel.
The second is the expansionist ideology and policy of the Iranian regime. Iran is active in transforming itself in the ruler of the Middle East, transforming into satellites in the first movement Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and the Gulf countries.
Thirdly, Iran, although grossly mismanaged, is from a variety of points of view a fairly developed country that can make a difference at the World level.
A.L.H. : Does a tangible risk of collaboration between North Korea, Russia, Iran and Syria upon nuclear issues exists? The Knesset recently found evidence regarding the presence of north Korean nuclear experts in Syria, while the cooperation between Putin and Ahmadinejad is common knowledge…
M.L.: Absolutely. I have been writing about the North Korean connection for years, and the “Russian connection” is public knowledge.
D.P. : Historically, rogue nations have worked together and shared technology and material on WMD projects. The AQKhan project is a good example of the network that draws together proliferators. It is well known that North Korea has worked with a variety of nations on missile questions, and has likely also provided nuclear know how. The accusation is a plausible one, though there is considerably less evidence that Russia is helping Iran’s WMD programs.
P.C.: The most difficult thing to put in this puzzle is the Russian policy. As regards China – without the authorisation of whom I believe North Korea would not get involved in the Iranian nuclear plan – it probably thinks that the benefits of disrupting Western interests outweigh the risks of fuelling a fanatic Muslim centre at its borders.
Regarding Russia, probably someone is making the same sort of calculations over there, but it is so suicidal for the immediate Russian interests to do so, that I am not convinced that Russia will consistently cover up Iranian plans.
Regarding Syria, I do not think they have much of room for an independent policy regarding Iran.
Daniel Diker: Israel has been concerned about the Syria North Korea connection with Regards to Nuclear materials. There is heavy suspicion of North Korea shipping nuclear materials to – Syria in order to advance nuclear development. We also Know for a fact in Israel that Syria is the number one address for chemical missiles in the Middle East/ There is a large concern over Russian involvement in Supplying Syria high grade weapons systems, including the anti aircraft systems that were penetrated by the western alliance on September 6th, 2007. Former US Ambassador to UN John Bolton told us when he was recently in Israel that he believes that Iran and North Korea are directly involved in developing Syrian nuclear program.
A.L.H.: Should the role of Israel in all this being more central, in your opinion? Especially considering the reiterated threats aimed at the Jewish State and coming (not only)from Nasrallah and Ahamadinejad?
D. P.: Israel must do what its leaders believe necessary to ensure its national security. Whether it is within the capacities of Israel to neutralize the Iranian nuclear program without considerable negative repercussions is an important question to which there is no satisfactory answer at this moment.
P.C.: The role of Israel has been central, although perhaps a bit too late as an effort. Israel now seems to have understood the message better than anyone else (and with the clear language of Ahmadinejad it would have been difficult not to) and they are doing what they can to explain that the end of Israel would be the beginning of the end for our civilization.
A.L.H.: What should the Us and Europe do to solve the problem? Is a Podhoretz style (The case for bombing Iran) solution desirable?
M.L.: I think military action against Iran is highly undesirable. Regime change, via political support for Iranian pro-democracy organizations and individuals, is much better.
D.P.: Bombing Iran is highly undesirable, and will not be a silver bullet. The only long term answer is the removal of the regime now in power; however, we have made no progress in that direction and will be confronted by the question of what to do about an Iranian bomb before we see a revolution in Tehran. Military strikes may be the only remaining option at a certain moment, but they will not be a perfect or an especially satisfying option in the long term.
P.C.: I do not believe at war as a first hand scenario, although things might be heading that way with unpredictable results. Before one gets there, there are a plethora of other things that should start to be done, namely:
1. Empower the Iranian people in several ways (civil society, cultural and ideological war, firm and clear commitments) namely by taking out of the terrorist list the main organisation of Iranian opposition. If you take out the huge but largely inorganic opposition from the civil society, the minorities opposition – important, but not sufficient in itself – and a plethora of so-called “reformists” that are not a real opposition, the PMOI is the single nation-wide opposition significant organization. Furthermore, I believe that the accusations of “terrorism” are groundless.
This does not mean that the West should allow the PMOI to develop armed actions out of its own soil, or even to use it as a weapon in a war against Iran (although I think this would be smarter than just bombing Iran). To allow an armed group to develop violent activities in other country is the first step to engage in a war.
We just should allow Iranians to do what they think it’s best for them to do, and that means withdrawing the terror label out of the PMOI.
2. Isolate Iran in the World and especially in the region. It is unbelievable that the US and its closest allies developed a war in Iraq to install those who are the instruments of Teheran in power. This should not continue.
Iraq is the most obvious example, but a consistent policy of confronting Teheran should be developed in the Greater Middle East, and of course through the rest of the World.
D.D.: I believe that a Podhoretz approach is the correct one if a complete isolation of Iran fails. That means that, the US must lead the Western Alliance in a complete embargo of goods, Services, materials currency to Iran. This means total and complete isolation of Iran. IF that fails then, aggressive military action is unavoidable. US Republican Presidential candidate John McCain said the only worse option that bombing Iran is if Iran gained a nuclear capability. The US must engage Europe in a complete embargo of Iran and only then if that fails, move to the military option. The Islamic world appreciates the US when it uses massive force not when it shows weakness like the NIE.
A.L.H.: Isn’t it time for the head of AIEA ,Mohammed El-Baradei, to leave office, given the results of his activity?
M.L.: It is long past time.
D.P.: It was time for Mohamed ElBaradei to go a long time ago.
P.C.: Mr. Mohammed El-Baradei has really not been very helpful. But then again, the authors of the latest NIE made worse than whatever Mr. El-Baradei has been doing in the last few years. If I would establish some priorities on whom to sack first, I think the US (not to mention the EU and in particular the UK) would be a more fertile ground than the IAEA.
D.D.: Yes he should resign and they should put someone like Berlusconi, Aznar, Merkel, Sarkozy, or the President of Georgia (Mikheil Saakashvili, ndr) in charge of the AIEA