Monday, September 28, 2009

Scott Ritter: Keeping Iran honest.

Prior to the Iraq war I found Scott Ritter to be consistently right in a way that many of the right wing commentators were not. Here, he turns his attention to the recent revelations concerning Iran's nuclear facility at Qom.

The need to create a mechanism of economic survival in the face of the real threat of either US or Israeli military action is probably the most likely explanation behind the Qom facility. Iran's declaration of this facility to the IAEA, which predates Obama's announcement by several days, is probably a recognition on the part of Iran that this duplication of effort is no longer representative of sound policy on its part.

In any event, the facility is now out of the shadows, and will soon be subjected to a vast range of IAEA inspections, making any speculation about Iran's nuclear intentions moot. Moreover, Iran, in declaring this facility, has to know that because it has allegedly placed operational centrifuges in the Qom plant (even if no nuclear material has been introduced), there will be a need to provide the IAEA with full access to Iran's centrifuge manufacturing capability, so that a material balance can be acquired for these items as well.

Rather than representing the tip of the iceberg in terms of uncovering a covert nuclear weapons capability, the emergence of the existence of the Qom enrichment facility could very well mark the initiation of a period of even greater transparency on the part of Iran, leading to its full adoption and implementation of the IAEA additional protocol. This, more than anything, should be the desired outcome of the "Qom declaration".

Calls for "crippling" sanctions on Iran by Obama and Brown are certainly not the most productive policy options available to these two world leaders. Both have indicated a desire to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Iran's action, in declaring the existence of the Qom facility, has created a window of opportunity for doing just that, and should be fully exploited within the framework of IAEA negotiations and inspections, and not more bluster and threats form the leaders of the western world.
There should be no surprise that Iran, faced with constant threats of attack on it's facilities by both the US and Israel, should have sought to hide part of it's nuclear programme. The really interesting thing is that it has made this declaration; it has come clean.

Obama, Sarkosy and Brown have chosen to take the Netanyahu line in all of this, and I'm not sure how useful that will turn out to be.

For example, in today's New York Times we are given lists of the various ways in which we can bring this regime to it's knees:
The Obama administration is scrambling to assemble a package of harsher economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program that could include a cutoff of investments to the country’s oil-and-gas industry and restrictions on many more Iranian banks than those currently blacklisted, senior administration officials said Sunday.

“There are a variety of options still available,” Defense Secretary
Robert M. Gates, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said of the potential list of targets for Iranian sanctions, notably in energy equipment and technology. He called it “a pretty rich list to pick from.”
I know that they have to prepare themselves in case Ahmadinejad refuses to allow inspections, but aren't we getting way ahead of ourselves here?

Ahmadinejad has said that he will allow inspections. Shouldn't we at least wait the few days until the talks before we start issuing threats of what we will do if we don't get our way? Indeed, the very fact that we are issuing so many threats, and making it clear that we have a myriad of ways to hurt the Iranians, makes me feel that we are actually worried that we won't get these sanctions past the Russian and Chinese veto, which is causing us to overplay our hand.

The most important thing that we need to keep in mind is that the announcement regarding Qom changes nothing at all in terms of Iran's capability to manufacture a weapon.
Simply put, Iran is no closer to producing a hypothetical nuclear weapon today than it was prior to Obama's announcement concerning the Qom facility.
You wouldn't know that if you watched Obama, Brown and Sarkosy the other day. You would be forgiven for thinking that Doctor Death had been caught red handed charging up his ray gun.

This is all hyperbolic nonsense. There will be time for talk of sanctions should Iran refuse to allow inspections, but, until we get to that point, I would prefer if Obama, Brown and Sarkosy put their George W. Bush impressions back in the box.

Click title for Ritter's article.

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