Ever since Iran publicised its nuclear fuel cycle plans in 2003, western experts have tried to downplay its rate of progress in nuclear engineering. The Iranian scientific community is often viewed as technologically inept. Relatively minor obstacles have been portrayed as next to insurmountable. These arguments are now growing increasingly false – Tehran is adding centrifuges faster than the UN security council can step up the pressure. Time is not working in the favour of the west.
Iran is making good progress in many key areas of nuclear engineering. Presently, it has some 4,000 operational centrifuges at its facility in Natanz. This means that it is learning about the intricate art of connecting a large number of centrifuges with a vast amount of pipework while maintaining everything under vacuum. Getting centrifuges to run is not difficult; getting them to run as a single entity is the challenge.
Iran's increasing capabilities also mean that it can produce some 3.2 metric tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU) per year. This is about a tenth of the annual fuel load of a typical light water reactor. However, the technology can have other uses too. If Iran decides to re-enrich this product, it can theoretically produce some 115kg of weapons-grade uranium per year. It can have a bomb's worth of material in less than three months.
This does not mean, however, that Iran is producing weapons-grade material. Neither does it mean that it intends to. Indeed, capabilities and intentions are two different things. The IAEA is still insisting it has no evidence of any ongoing Iranian weapons programme. Some states therefore worry about what Iran could do if it builds enough capacity to go down the weapons route. In particular, many worry about what Iran could do with its LEU stockpile.
Many things need to happen before Iran can convert its low-enriched uranium stockpile to weapons-usable material. It would first need to get enough LEU in its warehouses. The international community would know when this happened, as long as all Iranian enrichment capacity is safeguarded by the IAEA.
Furthermore, the Natanz facility is set up to produce LEU only. Iran must therefore disconnect many miles of pipework and reconnect them to make it suitable for weapons-grade enrichment. Unless the Iranian floor managers are notorious gamblers, they would want at least a month to do this. Getting the centrifuges back on stream without testing the new configuration could cause severe damage to the sensitive rotors.
This provides the international community with a clear trigger to take decisive action against any Iranian weaponisation: once the inspectors are ejected, the clock is ticking. Current divisions within the security council on how to deal with Iran would probably be overcome. In fact, an agreement can be reached beforehand on how to deal with any Iranian move towards re-enrichment.
The bottom line is that inspections are instrumental in preventing Iranian weaponisation and much can be done to prevent Iranian enrichment from equating with an Iranian bomb.
Instead of investing further in a security council track focused on the losing proposition of stopping Iranian enrichment altogether, resources should be diverted towards making it as unattractive as possible for Iran to make the choice of re-enriching the LEU. This would require boosting inspections of Iranian facilities while defining the steps the security council will take in case Iran seeks to re-enrich. This could be spelled out in a security council resolution.
According to former weapons inspector David Kay, the west must also take measures now in regard to regional security to make any potential failure to stop an Iranian bomb an irrelevant development.
Nuclear weapons have little military utility, and their deterrent value has never been proven. In the Middle East, however, wihout a new security architecture, the spread of nuclear weapons is likely to be a game changer.
Unless the west redefines the game and makes the nuclear stand-off with Iran about bomb-making and not enrichment, and devotes resources to create disincentives for Iran to weaponise, time will continue to be on the side of Iran.
First published in The Guardian.
Trita Parsi is Presdient of National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) and the author of Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US, a silver medal recipient of the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Book Award. Andreas Persbo is a senior researcher at the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre.
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Obama will not be fooled byby highhopes (not verified) on Wed Nov 05, 2008 10:04 AM PST
Obama will not be fooled by IRI because he is a methodical and incredibly intelligent man. He is also honorable man and has no tolerance for those who tample on the humanity of others for profit. He will see right through IRI lobbists and the IRI's shenangins. He will not be manipulated by IRI mouthpieces.
IRAN POWERby ramin 7 (not verified) on Tue Nov 04, 2008 04:20 PM PST
iran is the world up coming super power and IRAN will bring down U.S iran will soon free the world from zionst evil
گربه پشمالوامیر کبیر در حال خوردن یلو کیک (not verified)
Tue Nov 04, 2008 08:56 AM PST
بنظر بنده ایران بهتر است همان گربه پشمالو باقی بماند که اسرائیل، انگلیس، روس و آمریکا همه راضی بمانند. بمب اتم و تولید آنچه "yellow cake" خوانده میشود متعلق به کشورهائی است که فقیر هستند و دنبال یک لقمه نان.
کشورهای ثروتمند چون ایران باید در زمینه بین المللی تولیداتشان منحصر شود به کنسرتهای شجریان، جلسات قرائت اشعار مولانا، طاقباز دراز کشیدن، استعمال شیره، کشیدن قلیان، تاسیس نمایشگاهای عظمت اسلام در قلب لندن، تشویق زیر ابرو برداشتن برای مردان و اینگونه تحولات و جلوه های فرهنگی.
حالا دیگر تمام ایرانیان متخصص بحث در مورد بمب اتم شده اند و جالب اینجاست همه ادعا دارند که نشانی و آدرس کلیه مراکز اتمی ایرانی را نیز بلد هستند.
بقول منّور خانم: آنکه بما نریده بود غلاغ کون دریده بود.
The fact is Iran has not violated any laws.by Hichkas (not verified) on Tue Nov 04, 2008 08:09 AM PST
There are some areas of concern and a lot of suspicions and innuendos heaped on Iran by its enemies. It is also a fact that Obama, as the next US president, will have a much better chance to bring the issue to some form of resolution. There are many opinions on the subject but I personally think the following has the highest chance for implementation.
Thanks Trita...by Saman on Tue Nov 04, 2008 07:23 AM PST
Good article as usual.
Fered I am surprised youby Lefty Lap Poodle (not verified) on Tue Nov 04, 2008 06:48 AM PST
Fered I am surprised you missed being the first one to comment of what a lobby NIAC really is. Usually you are THE first to spit on NIAC!
Since Rashidian and Kashani are fuming too you guys should know that the 3 prong attacks like these are a badge of honor for NIAC. The more you attack NIAC the more honorable and cutsey they become! Love, love, love NIAC! Lovee dovee love NIAC!
You should go to an NIAC meeting and compare the Iranian-American hotties there with the fossilized Iranians such as yourselves in other forums!
US and the UN are acting illegally.by IranianMan (not verified) on Tue Nov 04, 2008 06:35 AM PST
Wrong title for this article. It does not match the content.
Cowards should present their evidence or shut up. Look at AIPAC and compare it to NIAC, then you would see why US policies are screwed up.
U.S. and the UN are acting illegally towards Iran. The U.S. has blackmailed many countries to vote against Iran. God or Nature is fair. Now take it.
The U.S. is wrong and has damaged the reputation of the UN. The U.S. is based on stolen lands from native Indians which is managed with bunch of thieves who immigrated to the U.S. and support its atrocities towards other countries. Scott Ritter wrote that many of IAEA and US Nuclear inspectors were US spies. Bush and Dick Cheney lied and cheated their people and brought the U.S. to its lowest level in the eyes of the whole world. No one trusts the U.S. and its people any longer.
Good Article Again,by Jaleho on Tue Nov 04, 2008 06:24 AM PST
Except that I believe a converse statement must be added to the following:
"resources should be diverted towards making it as unattractive as possible for Iran to make the choice of re-enriching the LEU. This would require boosting inspections of Iranian facilities while defining the steps the security council will take in case Iran seeks to re-enrich. "
Resources should also be diverted to make it attractive for Iran to comply with IAEA's increased inspections, not to punish it for doing so! A biting converse statement should be considered:
"Conversely, if Iran is not found to enrich to weaponize, as already has been observed by thousands of inspection hours by IAEA, then all sanctions must be lifted. Iran's right to nuclear energy according to NPT must be respected , or else Iran should not allow increased inspections and follow through its threat of stepping out of NPT."
NIAC and Parsi keep lobbyingby Farhad Kashani on Tue Nov 04, 2008 05:10 AM PST
NIAC and Parsi keep lobbying for the regime.
Trojan Horseby Jahanshah Rashidian on Tue Nov 04, 2008 08:13 AM PST
We are keenly aware that, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center's national security task force on Iran, what ever the result of the ongoing US presidential vote, the next president has to solve quickly the atomic conflict with the IRI.
Daniel R. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, and Charles S. Robb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia, are co-chairmen of this steering committee. They recently published this common report. //news.findlaw.com/prnewswire/20080922/22sep2....
Iindepedendently which party gets the upper hand, if Obama wins the elections, what actually more annoying for the IRI and its lobby groups is, Obama and his running mate, Joe Bioden, who is believed to stay close to Mullahs and their lobby groups in the US, have three months to have Mullahs abandoned their Uranium Enrichment; plus, they have to bow to the last UN Resolutions.
If Mullahs attempt to buy time and dodge their demands, the next step will be hard sanctions or even heavy air strikes on Iran after this dealine of three months, according to the report.
The IRI and its lobby groups are now perplexed and still look for some "Grand Bargain" before it is too late, but this time, the time may no longer be bought. Under Obama's effect, criminal Mullahs have less chance to survive because their Human Rights dossier can be more seriously tested as well.
The "solution" skewed by the author seems one of the a typically diverting tactics of the IRI which are occasionally chosen to deal with such a dilemma, a Trojan horse to get Mullahs' hands on the bomb.
Iranian government and Iranians in generalby پیام on Tue Nov 04, 2008 01:14 AM PST
have proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Study the Iranian history and you will find that Iranians are resilient.
To Izzyby پیام on Tue Nov 04, 2008 01:11 AM PST
Nice apocalyptic assesment of Iran's power. You clearly are a man of knowledge!
IRAN is unavoidableby Izzy (not verified) on Mon Nov 03, 2008 11:33 PM PST
I think that Pahlavis and Rajavis did their best propagandas. IRAN will play a major role in the End Times. The great French philosopher, Nostradamus, predicted the Iranian role in the invasion of Israel is going to begin World War 3 by forming alliance with Russia and China. We are getting at the edge of the Book of Revelation. Most Christian conservatives in the U.S. think that Iranian nuclear program is unavoidable and the Bible prophecy is coming true. Also, Sarkozy is uniting the Mediterranean nations into one single currency.
Rewording “grand bargain”by Fred on Mon Nov 03, 2008 11:31 PM PST
NIAC lobby head in part says: “Instead of investing further in a security council track focused on the losing proposition of stopping Iranian enrichment altogether, resources should be diverted towards making it as unattractive as possible for Iran to make the choice of re-enriching the LEU. This would require boosting inspections of Iranian facilities while defining the steps the security council will take in case Iran seeks to re-enrich. This could be spelled out in a security council resolution.”
If as he says the efforts to stop Islamist republic’s two decadeds long mostly clandestine enrichment activity is a "losing proposition" through Secutrity Council, how and why should it not be so in any other refocused effort through the same venue?
Revisionim!by Killjoy (not verified) on Mon Nov 03, 2008 08:16 PM PST
"Much to the dislike and displeasure of the Iranian regime, the opposition group MKO revealed and exposed IRI's secret nuclear program to the whole world! As much as I hate to give them credit for it, if the MKO nuts had not done so, the Mullahs would probably have the A Bomb today!"
But that's exactly how histories are written or presented by revisionists whose intersts come before their integrity.
On this site, there's no shortage of individuals who take the liberty to twist historical facts and rewrite the history of pre- and post-revolutinary Iran in a fashion that pleases the regime in Tehran.
Mr. Parsi knows well that, close to two decades and until their activities were exposed by MEK, the regime was trying to develop WMD. However, he chooses to distort the fact that the regime had no intention of letting the world know about their plans, believing many readers of this site would either ignore or not notice his blatant distortions.
The rest of the article is, "Pishkesheh khosh baavaaraan."
To farradby AAA (not verified) on Mon Nov 03, 2008 08:11 PM PST
You are giving MKO too much credit here. It is well established that Mossad discovered the clandestine nuclear program in Iran. Mossad first approached Reza Pahlavi and company to take the info public. Junior refused. Mossad then asked the MKO to do the deed which they gladly accepted.
...devotes resources toby ... (not verified) on Mon Nov 03, 2008 06:33 PM PST
...devotes resources to create disincentives for Iran to weaponise, time will continue to be on the side of Iran.
what kind of disincentives??
I say let Iran weaponize. This will only vindicate the West.
Your first sentence needs correctionby farrad02 on Mon Nov 03, 2008 06:22 PM PST
The very first sentence of your article needs a major correction!
You wrote "Ever since Iran publicised its nuclear fuel cycle plans in 2003....". The fact is that the Islamic Republic of Iran did not "publicize" it's nuclear program!
Much to the dislike and displeasure of the Iranian regime, the opposition group MKO revealed and exposed IRI's secret nuclear program to the whole world! As much as I hate to give them credit for it, if the MKO nuts had not done so, the Mullahs would probably have the A Bomb today!