Friday, May 25, 2012

The game of chicken between Iran and Israel

Somehow I'm just not believing Iran's denials that it's trying to create nuclear weapons. Today's report is that uranium enriched to 27% has been detected at the Fordow centrifuge site near Qom. Haaretz reports:
The UN atomic agency has found evidence at an underground bunker in Iran that could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats said Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has found traces of uranium enriched up to 27 percent at Iran's Fordo enrichment plant, the diplomats told The Associated Press.

That is still substantially below the 90-percent level needed to make the fissile core of nuclear arms. But it is above Iran's highest-known enrichment grade, which is close to 20 percent, and which already can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than the Islamic Republic's main stockpile, which can only be used for fuel at around 3.5 percent.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity because their information is privileged, said the find did not necessarily mean that Iran was covertly raising its enrichment threshold toward weapons-grade level. They said one likely explanation was that the centrifuges that produce enriched uranium initially over-enriched at the start as technicians adjusted their output.
Much as I would like to believe that the current talks about Iran's nuclear program will succeed in persuading them to stop enriching uranium to levels above those needed for peaceful use, and stop working on the other aspects of creating a nuclear weapon, like figuring out how to make a trigger for the nuclear fuel (which they have been accused of doing at the Parchin military base), I'm not getting the impression that Iran is serious at all about these talks. I think they're stalling until they've gone past the point of no return. Instead of putting forth some kind of goodwill gesture of their own (like temporarily stopping the enrichment of uranium to 20% at Fordow), they demanded first that sanctions should be halted, before they're prepared to do anything at all.

Do they really want the Israelis to attack them? Because, frankly, I think that Netanyahu and Barak are prepared to send the planes to bomb Iran, especially now that there is such a big government coalition. I think it would be both stupid and wicked for them to do so, but these talks are not giving them any incentive not to send the bombers. I hope that the US and the EU realize that if there isn't serious progress, soon, in these talks, that they're risking a disastrous war in the Middle East.


  1. "I think it would be both stupid and wicked for them to do so"

    If, as per the premise of your article, Iran is simply playing for time in order to achieve a nuclear weapons capability, what is the alternative to an Israeli air-strike?

    Reading the above quoted sentence I was reminded of the words (but not who first uttered) "all that is required for evil to triumph, is that good men do nothing".

  2. The question is of the consequences. Would it be worse to bomb the Iranian facilities than to put up with an Iranian bomb? The problem with Israel bombing the Iranian facilities is 1) that the bombing would not completely destroy them and the Iranians could rebuild their capacity within two to three years (the US government estimate), and 2) the likelihood of a horrible, destructive war breaking out immediately between Israel and Iran - one in which Israelis would suffer greatly from missile fire by Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. If Israel bombed Iran, the Iranians would be out for revenge, and would probably redouble their efforts to build a bomb - and they would be more motivated to actually use it against Israel. This is why I am hoping that the US, UK, and EU sanctions will hurt Iran enough to persuade Iranian leaders that stopping their nuclear plans is worth it.