You may need to read that statement again to see all the caveats. Maybe read it a few times, just for good measure. Is everyone sufficiently scared?
The comment is from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a man not usually known for mincing words, but Iran’s “near possession” of the “potential” for something that “in principle could be used” for something bad is sparking yet another flurry of panic about Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
“Iran Nearing Nuclear Bombs, Russia Warns” blares the BBC. while Reuters announces “Russia says Iran close to nuclear weapons.” At this point it might be helpful to go back to the top of the page and re-read that Medvedev quote again.
The US is cheering this comment as a “strong remark” from Russia against Iran, but what does it really mean? In short, very little.
In fact Iran’s civilian enrichment program does give it something akin to “breakout capability” right now, chiefly as a result of the US refusing to let Iran export a large portion of its stockpile abroad for fuel for a medical reactor. Yet the same thing can be said of Japan, or Canada, or any number of other nations with functioning civilian nuclear programs and no designs whatsoever on nuclear weapons.
Iran is not “close” to having nuclear weapons, because Iran is not building nuclear weapons. The IAEA has repeatedly confirmed that none of Iran’s civilian uranium is being enriched anywhere near weapons grade levels, and none of it is being diverted to any non-civilian purpose. Iran is no closer now than they were a month ago, in that at either point Iran could publicly renounce the NPT, kick out in inspectors, and then in a few years have a couple of nuclear weapons. This is not new nor is it particularly frightening, as the “few years” clock doesn’t start ticking down until Iran actually kicks out the inspectors.
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