Iran's making a bomb, all else is a lie

By Emanuele Ottolenghi, September 15, 2011
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Iran’s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi (left) at a press conference last year

Iran’s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi (left) at a press conference last year

Distracted by the Arab Spring and the latest Palestinian theatrics, the West has paid little attention to Iran in recent months.

But revolutions or not, Iran's nuclear clock continues to tick and the hour of reckoning may now be near.

This at least appears to be the case when one reads the new quarterly report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog in charge of monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran is violating the treaty and, despite mounting pressure from a progressively expanding regime of sanctions, Tehran relentlessly pursues its nuclear ambitions while protesting its innocence.

But Iran's claims are lies.

Iran's nuclear programme is 30 years old but has yet to produce a single kilowatt of electricity. For a country claiming to seek peaceful energy rather than nuclear weapons, this is a curious way to waste its wealth.

There is a growing stockpile of uranium. To date, Iran has produced more than four tons of low enriched uranium, which would suffice for four nuclear bombs. What is the need for this uranium, since Iran has no nuclear power plant to feed it into for energy production?

There is evidence of military activities connected to the programme, including efforts to fit a nuclear payload into a locally produced ballistic missile, studies of specially designed detonators that are meant for nuclear weapons, and attempts to shape uranium metal into hemispheres. Then there is the history of clandestine nuclear sites - most of Iran's nuclear activities would remain unknown to the world had it not been for the work of intelligence agencies and opposition groups that toiled to expose the regime's secret programme. And secrecy, in the nuclear business, is not a trademark of innocence.

Now Iran is installing new, more advanced centrifuges - the machines that enrich uranium - in a new, erstwhile clandestine site built under a mountain, for the purpose of further enriching uranium Iran claims it needs for medical purposes. Yet, Iran has already accumulated enough such uranium for its needs for years to come and it could obtain it easily from foreign suppliers if it was more transparent about its nuclear activities.

Iran's cat and mouse game has given Tehran time to develop its nuclear programme - and given its progress, it may soon be too late to stop them.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies in Washington

    Last updated: 1:38pm, September 15 2011