UPDATE: The Associated Press has pulled the original article by George Jahn and it is being replaced by a more benign article called “Iran to stop enrichment if given nuclear fuel” by Nasser Karimi. (2/9/2010)
In a widely-circulated article which has further fueled Western hysteria about the prospect of an imminent war with Iran, the Associated Press today claimed that Iran’s uranium enrichment program move, an effort to produce medical isotopes which are rapidly running out in the nation, was a secret plot to build nuclear weapons.
The article, entitled “Iran moves closer to nuke warhead capacity,” claims that Iran had informed the IAEA that it “will increase its ability to make nuclear warheads,” an allegation which is not only unsupported by fact but even goes beyond the ample bellicose Western statements quoted in the piece.
In fact the IAEA’s own confirmation of the Iranian statement says simply that Iran is planning to begin efforts for “production of less than 20 percent enriched uranium,” noted by the AP piece as “just below the threshold for high enriched uranium” but actually well short of the 90 percent plus needed for weapons grade material.
Iran has made it clear than the approximately 20 percent enriched uranium will be used in an effort to produce fuel rods for its US-built Tehran reactor, needed in the creation of medical isotopes. The move came as efforts for a third party enrichment deal, which would provide Iran with access to fuel rods from overseas, has stalled amid international ire.
But the AP piece glossed over Iran’s acceptance of the third party enrichment deal last week, a move which it claims was “welcomed internationally” but which was actually roundly condemned by Western officials who claimed that accepting their own demands was an effort to “stall.”
In fact this was the key to Iran’s move, as German officials insisted that Iran’s acceptance couldn’t be accepted, and that they would have to start a new round of negotiations, something Western officials have repeatedly rejected. With the prospect for a third-party enrichment deal at best speculative going forward, Iran was left with the choice of abandoning nuclear medicine treatments for thousands of patients or pushing forward with efforts to become self-sufficient in the process.
And while British officials insisted, and the AP was quick to point out, that they doubt Iran’s capability to actually produce the fuel rods, other experts said they would likely be able to, and Iran seemed to have few options but to try.
At the end of the day though, the biggest problem with the piece was the reference to “nuke warheads,” a technology which Iran isn’t even accused of moving forward. If Iran isn’t even capable of making fuel rods for medical reactors out of 20 percent enriched uranium it is hoping to produce, it is absolutely absurd and irresponsible to claim that Iran is nearing the capability of producing nuclear-capable warheads, which would require not only weapons-grade uranium which they are not producing, but advanced delivery systems.
With Iran’s enrichment facilities under 24-hour IAEA surveillance, they will be able to confirm that neither Iran’s current 3.5 percent uranium or its speculative 20 percent uranium is diverted to anything but civilian purposes. The surveillance would also instantly confirm if Iran began enriching uranium beyond 20 percent, meaning the threat of Iran suddenly acquiring a nuclear weapon is entirely illusory. Western officials, and some writers at the Associated Press, however, see fit to look beyond the lack of concrete threats and instead rely on public fear of the unknown to make the case for escalating tensions beyond all reason, and bringing the West ever closer to a needless war with Iran.