- US: Iran must confess to making nuclear bomb
- Iran tests faster centrifuges with uranium
- IAEA report could be delayed by disagreement between Elbaradei and his staff
- Iran's Missile tests alarm international community
On Friday Gregory Schulte, chief US delegate to the IAEA demanded that Iran confess to trying to make nuclear weapons prior to 2003. Schulte said that anything short of that would doom the IAEA's report about Iran's nuclear past, which is due out ahead of an IAEA meeting on March 3rd. Schulte said the "measure for progress is whether Iran fully discloses its past weapons work and allows IAEA inspectors to verify it's halted." He spoke a day after diplomats told the Associated Press that the U.S. had recently shared new intelligence on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons work. One of them also said that Washington gave the IAEA permission to confront Iran with at least some of the evidence in an attempt to pry details out of the Islamic republic on its nuclear activities.
Iran still possesses the capacity to produce nuclear weapons even though it may have stopped its weaponization program, according to Thomas Fingar, US Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis. Fingar also told the Congressional hearing that the Islamic Republic "continues to develop" capabilities that could be swiftly adopted for production of nuclear weapons.
Iran has introduced small amounts of uranium gas into advanced centrifuges it is testing at its Natanz nuclear complex according to diplomats. It is understood that Iran is using UF6 gas in new IR-2 centrifuges, said to be an adaptation of a Pakistani centrifuge, which could refine nuclear materials at a rate two to three times faster than the older P-1 centrifuges Iran has been using to date. Andreas Persbo of VERTIC speculates that the IR-2 design suggests rather more Russian/Soviet influence than Pakistani. Such secret assistance could suggest either official endorsement or assistance from disaffected Russian scientists. An EU diplomat commented the Iranian move was a "stunning rejection" of repeated UN Security Council demands that Iran suspend enrichment, and could hasten passage of broader sanctions drafted by six world powers.
The IAEA's report, ostensibly about Iran's nuclear work prior to 2003, due to be tabled this week and discussed by the IAEA Board on March 3rd may be delayed due to disputes between technical staffers and General-Secretary Mohamed Elbaradei. "There were disagreements between Elbaradei and his technical staff. Elbaradei is pushing for one thing, while the people who went on a technical visit to Iran during January disagree," said one Western diplomat, suggesting "it should now be published maybe one week later, so in the last week of February." The UN Security Council is not expected to vote on a third round of sanctions against Iran until after the report is released. "The vote is not specifically tied to the IAEA report, but it just so happens that by the time we get around to voting on it, it will most likely be after the report is out," a European diplomat told Reuters.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad has announced that the test rocket Iran launched into space on February 4th has successfully communicated data back to Iran. Iran now plans to launch two further rockets and a satellite by summer 2008. US alarm at the development was shared by Russia. Alexander Losyukov, Russian deputy foreign minister, said "any progress in the development of this [long-range ballistic missile] weaponry, certainly worries us and others".
Iranian elections for the Majlis, or Parliament, will be held on 14th March. So-called moderates and reformists have united in a coalition centered around Mohammad Khatami, but many candidates have been disqualified.
stories and links
Iran says US talks delayed for technical reasons, Reuters, 17 February 2008
Rare US Iran meeting is disclosed, BBC, 16 February 2008
Iran sees higher economic growth despite sanctions, Reuters, 16 February 2008
Israel insists that Iran still seeks bomb, NY Times, 12 February 2008
Gulf Arabs see Israel stopping Iran bomb, Reuters, 12 February 2008
Iranian dissidents see dark legacy of glorious revolution, RFEL, 11 February 2008
Elbaradei warns about extremist nuclear threat, LA Times, 10 February 2008
US backed Russian institutions help Iran build nuclear reactor, NY Times, 7 February 2008
US spy chief retreats on Iran estimate, NY Sun, 6 February 2008
comments, editorials and analysis
As the enrichment machine spins on: how America's own intelligence services have brought international policy on Iran to the edge of collapse, Economist, 31 Jan
Europe can limit Iran's nuclear ambitions, Financial Times, 7 February 2008
Analysis: Hopes for better Iran ties lag, Washington Post, 17 February 2008