Iran: Wars and Rumors of War

A Pentagon official expressed fears that Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities at Natanz near Isfahan before the next president is sworn in. He identified two red lines. One was the delivery and installation from Russia of a new anti-aircraft weapons system in Iran, which will make an Israeli strike more difficult.

The other red line, he said, was the point at which Iran had enriched enough uranium to make a bomb, which he estimated would occur in 2009, but which Israel would want to forestall well before it was achieved.

This second “red line” is pure bullshit. There is no evidence that Iran is enriching uranium to weapons grade at all, much less that it is making enough highly-enriched uranium that it will be able to make a bomb in 2009.

You can’t use low-enriched uranium to make a bomb. It has to be highly enriched. Iran–as far as anyone has proved–is only making the low-enriched kind, and from all accounts it isn’t doing such a great job of that, either. If it made high-enriched uranium, that could be detected by the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who regularly inspect Iran’s facilities. I.e., it just isn’t there and the idea that Iran could have enough material to make a bomb by next year is ridiculous. Now if it turned all its centrifuges to this task, then maybe it could achieve that result, though most experts think Iran’s ability to enrich is still exaggerated. It could not highly enrich without creating atomic signatures detectable by the inspectors.

The IAEA says that there is no evidence–zilch, zero, nada– that Iran has facilities for enriching to weapons grade or that it is trying to do so. See Jason Leopold’s interview with Scott Ritter

The US National Intelligence Estimate last December came to the conclusion that Iran has done no weapons-related experiments since early 2003.

Moreover, as Ritter points out, Israel likely lacks the capacity to launch an air strike on Iran in which its pilots safely return to Israel.

Even if it had the capacity, according to Beirut’s Daily Star, experts think it highly unlikely that Israel would launch such a strike, given the likely reprisals it would attract from Lebanon and in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Sy Hersh reports on US covert operations inside Iran, probably aimed at uncovering more about Iran’s nuclear program. I don’t know. Maybe that is a good thing. Like the inspectors in Iraq in winter 2003, they probably won’t find anything because there is nothing to find. Either way, genuine human intelligence would be preferable to speculation. I just hope their inability to find anything is taken more seriously this time.

A wise, even divine, man once said that there will be wars and rumors of war. To which I say that the rumors are better than the wars.

The rumors, in any case, are war by another means, since they are being used by the US and Israel to put pressure on Iran to stop its enrichment program, a program that is perfectly legal according to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That Israel, Pakistan and India flouted the NPT and actually did make bombs is never brought up when the US makes these charges against Iran, which allows regular inspections of its facilities, and against which there is no evidence of striving for a bomb.