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11/19/2004

Powell and Iran Nukes

Colin Powell said on Wednesday that Iran is trying to put nuclear warheads on missiles:

Speaking to reporters en route to a meeting in Chile, Powell said the information suggested Iran was "interested in nuclear weapons they could deliver … not just something that sits there."

Powell said that although he could not verify the accuracy of the reports, they were consistent with claims of Iranian dissidents and "should be of concern" to other nations.
Also on Wednesday, the opposition group National Council of Resistance, the political front for the MEK, "leveled startling but unconfirmed charges...that Iran had bought blueprints for a nuclear bomb and obtained weapons-grade uranium on the black market" and that "Iran was still secretly enriching uranium at an undisclosed Defense Ministry site in Tehran, despite an agreement with the Europeans two days ago to suspend all enrichment activities." [NYT, 11/17] Barry Schweid, an AP diplomatic writer, reports that Powell's statements foreshadow an eventual US submarining of the EU negotiations with Iran:
The Bush administration is not considering talks with Iran on developing nuclear weapons even though Secretary of State Colin Powell will attend a conference next week with diplomats from Iran and other countries.

Already suspicious that Iran is developing such weapons, the administration now has intelligence provided by a resistance group that Iran is trying to adapt missiles to deliver the weapons, Powell said Wednesday....

Britain, France and Germany have struck a deal with Iran that is designed to stop the nuclear enrichment program. If the United States does not join in the agreement, "the deal is dead," he said. "Only the U.S. can give Iran the security guarantees it needs," Cirincione said.
It now appears, though, that this is simply history repeating itself, with the Bush administration using weak intelligence to undermine diplomatic solutions to security problems. Powell's comments were "based on an unvetted, single source who provided information" - reportedly "a 'walk-in' source [who] approached U.S intelligence earlier this month with more than 1,000 pages purported to be Iranian drawings and technical documents, including a nuclear warhead design and modifications to enable Iranian ballistic missiles to deliver an atomic strike." [WP 11/19/04] The source was unknown to US intelligence, the coincidental timing with the MEK announcement is suspicious, and the "weak" intelligence has neither been confirmed, nor turned over to the IAEA for confirmation.

N.B.: The NYT:
Leading the charge for a tough line on Iran has been John R. Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control and international security. At the moment, administration officials say there are no prominent members of Mr. Bush's inner circle enthusiastic about the European approach of negotiating with Iran; most of the moderates are lower-level areas specialists in the State Department. But only last week Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded Mr. Bush to endorse the European approach.
Update, 11/19/04 1:38 PM EST: "Western" diplomats, presumably American (Bolton?), are accusing Iran of trying to squeeze out one more weekend's worth of enriched uranium precursors prior to implementing the EU negotiated freeze. Is this supposed to be bad news? Doesn't this imply they intend to comply with the freeze?

Update 11/20/04 3:20 AM EST: The Guardian is reporting that the diplomatic reports (which aren't coming solely from US sources) have put the EU-Iran agreement at risk:
A breakthrough deal between Iran and the EU aimed at defusing an international crisis over Tehran's alleged nuclear ambitions was thrown into uncertainty last night when diplomats said Iran was rushing to process feed material for the manufacture of bomb-grade uranium.
The question is whether Iran is producing uranium hexaflouride or tetraflouride. Hexaflouride is ready for the enrichment process.

 

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