Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Guess this is a sort of fixation of interest lately, but here’s some more about the Iranian nuclear threat, except one could say it’s less of a threat than what’s otherwise imagined.

For instance, in a March 2006 address to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Generals, director-general Mohamed ElBaradei declared that “the Agency has not seen indications of diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Regrettably, however, after three years of intensive verification, there remain uncertainties with regard to both the scope and the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme” (my emphasis). That’s a big qualifier, but my suspicion is it won’t be changed by threatening war.

According to a November 2005 report entitled Implementation of the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran, “The Agency has continued to monitor installations related to the uranium gas centrifuge and laser enrichment programmes, and has not observed any inconsistency with Iran’s voluntary undertaking not to carry out any enrichment activities” (my emphasis once again).

John Chipman, director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies explained in a 6 September 2005 report, “Iran has submitted to extensive investigations by the [IAEA] since 2003 to verify Iran’s acknowledgement of undeclared nuclear activities extending back over nearly 20 years. … Although a number of uncertainties remain about past and current activities, including the history of Iran’s enrichment and reprocessing efforts, we judge it is unlikely that Iran is hiding significant stocks of fissile material or production facilities for such material.” According to the Chipman dossier, “Public estimates for how long it would take Iran to acquire nuclear weapons range from only a few years to at least a decade.”

Ten years would put us in 2016, very close to the time when Iranian “revenue from its oil exports” might “virtually disappear” and another energy source would be needed — as “economic geographer” Roger Stern of the National Academy of Sciences just reported, according to an AP wire in today’s Washington Post (“Iran Oil Revenue Quickly Drying Up, Analysis Says,” A9). One finding from the Stern report declares that “there could be merit to Iran’s assertion that it needs nuclear power for civilian purposes.”

Without going on a limb, one could argue somewhat forcefully that canceling the economic sanctions we’re enforcing, at great peril to the Iranian people, would strip the regime ruling roughshod over them of any plausible reason to continue developing nuclear energy — much less any potential for acquiring weapons.

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