White House: Iran Doesn’t Have Ability to Enrich Uranium to 20 Percent

Gibbs Says Ahmadinejad Probably Lying

The Obama Administration’s “dual track” approach on Iran has taken an odd new turn today, as the White House and the US State Department are now presenting completely different official stories regarding America’s position on Iran’s enrichment program.

After nearly a solid week of railing against the supposed “threat” posed by Iran’s move to enrich uranium to 20 percent, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the US “do not believe they have the capability” to enrich the uranium to the 20 percent level, as President Ahmadinejad claimed earlier today.

Iran has been enriching uranium at 3.5 percent, the level needed for its power generation program. On Tuesday they announced that they were beginning to enrich uranium at 20 percent, the level needed for their medical reactor. The IAEA indicated yesterday that Iran has converted a small percentage of its enrichment program to the 20 percent level.

Since the announcement, US officials have insisted that they needed to make haste with new sanctions against Iran, claiming that the 20 percent enrichment (though itself legal and innocuous) could have been a step toward the capability to enrich uranium above 90 percent, or weapons grade.

It is therefore surprising that the administration, at the same time as the State Department continues to make allegations about Iran having designs on a weapons program, would cast doubt on their ability to even enrich to 20 percent.

The official line then seems to be that Iran is lying about its ability to produce 20 percent uranium for civilian purposes, proving that they are liars. Yet if the claim is true it would also mean Iran doesn’t have the ability to produce weapons grade uranium either, meaning that Iran’s nuclear program couldn’t even hypothetically pose any threat or have anything but the most modest civilian intentions, as Iran has claimed all along.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.