A Formula for Evading Penalties Built into Nuclear Watchdog’s Deal with Tehran

This week, Iran’s soft-soap campaign on its nuclear program won valuable support from the heads of the international Atomic Energy Agency, even though the UN watchdog still cannot determine that Iran’s nuclear activities are transparent or peaceful.
Even after listening for four years to Tehran’s evasions, untruths and prevarications on its nuclear intentions, IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei Friday, July 13, was still willing to hail Iran’s grudging permission for “one visit” to its Arak water reactor and “improved inspections” at Natanz as a “way out of the crisis.”
These measures were agreed during a visit to Tehran by the IAEA deputy director for safeguards, Olli Heinonen, Wednesday and Thursday.
Foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki spoke triumphantly in Tunis Saturday of a “new chapter in Iran’s relations with the UN agency.”
And no wonder. debkafile‘s Iranian and intelligence sources report that the six-month grace period granted Tehran by its latest maneuver is exactly the breathing space it needs for climbing over a technical hump in its progress towards a weapons capability. Its progress in enriching uranium is already substantial, whereas the Araq heavy water reactor is only in the first stages of a capability for using plutonium for making bombs.
Iran can therefore afford to be more forthcoming on Araq, although allowing only one visit, while omitting from its deal with the international watchdog the vital element of which sections of the Natanz plant would be open to inspection.
This “detail” was left for a further round of negotiations.
But although it is full of holes for the monitors, the deal struck with nuclear watchdog is a diplomatic breakthrough for Tehran. It is enough to arm the sanctions opponents in the UN Security Council with arguments to hold off a third round of punitive measures against Iran for persisting in its refusal to abandon uranium enrichment. Tehran has won an uninterrupted space up until December 2007 for its last stretch on the road to its objective, with good reason to expect that the watchdog and the Security Council opponents of expanded sanctions will hold up the deal as a breakthrough, and give the Islamic Republic immunity against further sanctions or a US or Israeli military attack.
Nevertheless, three points still stand out:
1. Monday, ElBaradei assured reporters in Vienna that Iran has slowed the expansion of its uranium work. He hailed this as a “diplomatic breakthrough”, when in fact it was a cover-up. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad immediately confirmed his statement. The two were clearly in close step.
2. On June 22, Iranian interior minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi announced that Iran has stocked more than 100 kg of enriched uranium and 150 kg of uranium gas. The accent on the words “more than” left the exact amount unclear. His revelation was quickly dismissed by fellow officials in Tehran as “inaccurate.”
debkafile‘s Iranian sources assign high credibility to the interior minister, a powerful figure in the Islamic regime and a member of the inner circle which makes the decisions on nuclear matters and military preparations for a potential US or Israel attack.
These sources point out that 500 kg of enriched uranium of a relatively low grade would be sufficient for building a single nuclear bomb. According to intelligence experts keeping close tabs on the program, Iran has accumulated enough enriched uranium for 2 or 3 nuclear bombs, under cover of the months and years of diplomatic haggling with the West.
3. ElBaradei has a long account to settle with the Bush administration from the years 2002 and 2003 when he led the UN team assigned to establish whether or not Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Iran’s rulers are more than ready to take advantage of the US president’s political setbacks at home and the Israeli government’s inertia for a major push towards an atomic weapon, especially when the UN watchdog’s director is a willing accessory.

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