Sunday, September 27, 2009

U.S. to Demand Inspection of New Iran Plant ‘Within Weeks’

Obama is using the revelation regarding Iran's new nuclear site at Qum to demand that Ahmadinejad allow inspections of all Iran's nuclear facilities with weeks.

The Obama administration plans to tell Iran this week that it must open a newly revealed nuclear enrichment site to international inspectors “within weeks,” according to senior administration officials. The administration will also tell Tehran that inspectors must have full access to the key personnel who put together the clandestine plant and to the documents surrounding its construction, the officials said Saturday.

The demands, following the revelation Friday of the secret facility at a military base near the holy city of Qum, set the stage for the next chapter of a diplomatic drama that has toughened the West’s posture and heightened tensions with Iran. The first direct negotiations between the United States and Iran in 30 years are scheduled to open in Geneva on Thursday.

I think that's actually fair enough. If Iran, as Ahmadinejad insists, have nothing to hide then there is no reason for them not to open up all of their sites to inspection.

And Obama - if I am reading this correctly and not missing anything - is going about this the right way by not demanding that the centrifuges stop turning. Bush always came at this from the angle that Iran should stop what it was doing immediately, implying that Iran was somehow already in breach of the NNPT.

Now that the clandestine site has been revealed, however, American and European officials say they see an opportunity to press for broader disclosures. Iran will be told that to avoid sanctions, it must adhere to an I.A.E.A. agreement that would allow inspectors to go virtually anywhere in the country to follow suspicions of nuclear work.

American and European officials should tread carefully here. It is one thing to insist that Iran prove that it is not developing a nuclear weapon, it is quite another to humiliate another nation and to trample on their sovereignty.

I trust Obama is level headed enough to know the difference.

Obama has every right to insist that we know exactly what is going on in Iran, and it is in Iran's interests to comply with this process. But it doesn't help to have American officials offering baseless speculation and assumptions as if they represent fact:

In an interview to be broadcast Sunday on ABC, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the hidden facility was “part of a pattern of deception and lies on the part of the Iranians from the very beginning with respect to their nuclear program.”

But he deflected a question that has been circulating inside the government: Is the Qum facility one of a kind, or just one of several hidden facilities that were intended to give Iran a covert means of enriching uranium, far from the inspectors who regularly visit a far larger enrichment facility, also once kept secret, at Natanz.

“My personal opinion is that the Iranians have the intention of having nuclear weapons,” Mr. Gates concluded, though he said it was still an open question “whether they have made a formal decision” to manufacture weapons.

That may very well be Gates' "personal opinion" but it certainly isn't based on fact. It can't be. Because the truth is that none of us know what is going on inside Iran.

So let Obama insist on inspections and lets follow the evidence where it leads us.

Let's not repeat the mistakes of Iraq, where certain people "knew" that Saddam had WMD based on nothing more solid than their own prejudices.

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