The Obama Administration’s attempts to characterize Iran’s civilian nuclear program as simultaneously a grave threat and something which officials have well in hand has had the nasty side effect of sending enormously mixed signals to the international community over whether they are still interested in a diplomatic channel or are simply following the Bush model of baseless accusations. Few times have the mixed signals come so publicly and so close together however.
On CNN, Admiral Michael Mullen declared that Iran had enough nuclear fuel to make a bomb, adding that “Iran having nuclear weapons, I’ve believed for a long time, is a very very bad outcome – for the region and for the world.”
Just an hour later on NBC, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was assuring people that Iran was “not close to a stockpile, they’re not close to a weapon at this point, and so there is some time.” The White House had previously declared Iran an “urgent problem,” citing a claim, later refuted by the IAEA, that Iran had been underreporting its enrichment.
Despite speculations based on Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program for its soon-to-be-started nuclear power plant, the IAEA says that Iran does not have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon, and they have continued to verify that none of the low-enriched uranium has been diverted to any use.