Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Enriched uranium found in Iran
From the New York Times:
VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- U.N. inspectors have found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment from an Iranian research center linked to the military, diplomats said Friday -- a revelation likely to strengthen U.S. arguments that Tehran wants to develop nuclear arms.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging the confidential information, cautioned that confirmation still had to come through other laboratory tests.

Initially, they said the density of enrichment appeared to be close to or above the level used to make nuclear warheads. But later a diplomat accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was below that, although higher than the low-enriched material used to generate power and heading toward weapons-grade level.

Still, they said, further analysis could show that the find matches others established to have come from abroad. The IAEA determined earlier traces of highly enriched uranium were imported on equipment from Pakistan that Iran bought on the black market during nearly two decades of clandestine activity.

Even then, nevertheless, the find would be significant.

Because Iran has previously denied conducting enrichment-related activities at the site, the mere fact the traces came from there bolsters arguments that it has hidden parts of a program that can create the fissile material used in nuclear warheads. Additionally, the site's connection to the military weakens Iranian arguments that its nuclear program is purely civilian.

''That has long been suspected as the site of undeclared enrichment research and ... the Iranians have denied that any enrichment research had taken place at that location,'' said Iran expert Gary Samore of the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago. ''It certainly does reinforce the agency's suspicion that Iran has not fully declared its past enrichment research.''

The development, however, was unlikely to result in an immediate American push for strong U.N. Security Council action against Tehran.

Meanwhile the Bush administration is still refusing direct talks with Tehran, despite increasing calls for them to do just that.

This doesn't sound like an attempt by the U.S. to avoid war. And the lower the president sinks in the polls, the more I worry that he'll attack Iran in part as a strategy to climb out of the hole.

With Tony Blair having removed Jack Straw and replaced him with a more compliant foreign secretary, he may even get to dance with the same partner the third time 'round (Afghanistan, Iraq...) and Blair might just feel the need to get Iran done before he is forced from leadership by his party. Another caveat, Bush and Blair are now without many of the neocon leaders (in Italy and Spain in particular) who supported their adventures in Iraq. Europe seems to be rushing headlong to cleanse itself of neoconservative leadership, before it's too late. Here in the U.S., we don't have that option (and even if the Dems get back in power in November, I somehow doubt they'll have the political cojones to try and take down the president. They're Democrats, after all...)

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posted by JReid @ 9:02 PM  
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