“Misconceptions about Iran’s nuclear program”

“Misconceptions about Iran’s nuclear program”
July 8, 2009
     David Albright and Jacqueline Shire list 7 common “misconceptions” regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The authors point out that Iran’s IAEA safeguards violations are not minor and that several nuclear facilities remain unmonitored due to Iran’s rejection of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol. The authors describe the technical steps Iran could take to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon within 6 months, speculating that Iran may choose a “straightforward” process of enriching natural uranium at a clandestine plant, which could be built in 2 years, in order to avoid detection and military attacks. The report also states Iran is unlikely to conduct full-scale nuclear testing (ISIS NuclearIran).
     In a direct response, Joshua Pollack argues that the production of a nuclear weapon (“breakout”) involves significant political risks that still outweigh Iran’s centrifuge capabilities. Citing a recent interview with Israeli official Uzi Arad, who states that Iran has enough fissionable material for a nuclear weapon but not enough to be considered a nuclear power, Pollack writes that Iran would likely want enough nuclear material for “maybe half a dozen” weapons before declaring itself a nuclear power (Total Wonkerr).
ISIS NuclearIran | Total Wonkerr


3 Responses to ““Misconceptions about Iran’s nuclear program””

  1. 1 William deB. Mills July 13, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Francois Niccolaud, who was the French ambassador to Iran from 2001 to 2005, says if the international community accepts Iran’s right to enrich uranium and Tehran agrees to an intrusive monitoring system, the nuclear standoff would be solved in a short time. But why would Iran agree to an intrusive monitoring system when it is succeeding in enriching uranium regardless of the international community’s attitude?

    What if the international community were to accept that the problem to be solved is not “Iranian nukes” but “Mideast nukes”?

    This definition transposes the situation for Iran from bending its knee under threat (a challenge to pride and patriotism) into an opportunity for Iran to seize the high moral ground and work in tandem with the whole international community to isolate and put pressure on the region’s only nuclear power: Israel. Every single specific concession Iran made (a camera here, an inspection there) would only make Iran look better and make Israel look worse. How could Ahmadinejad resist?

    This approach would also address the fundamental security issue. If Iran is singled out and forced to submit under threat of attack to international demands, its security gets worse: it has neither the nuclear shield nor international respect. It is just a punished and humiliated country with a president who has just seen his career ruined.

    On the other hand, if Iran joins the community as the country leading the way toward a visionary, if distant, future in which the whole Mideast becomes a nuclear-free zone, it gains security by improving ties with the West and gains security by shifting the spotlight onto Israel.

    Israel, in turn, also gains by seeing the long-term Iranian threat diminished, so it would have ever incentive to start what would surely be a very long, slow process of renouncing its nuclear rogue status by incrementally accepting, in step with Iran, a series of steps to increase transparency.

    Political pitfalls would of course be numerous (IRGC, Greater Israel and American Empire proponents), but what is wrong with the logic of this idea?

  2. 2 Kentaro Ide July 13, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    It is indeed notable that calls for a nuclear-free Middle East have never gained any real traction. Geoffrey Forden reports on a recent international conference on nuclear energy and proliferation in the Middle East, where similar proposals were apparently not received very well at all(http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2387/tone-deaf-in-the-mid-east : section “Whose proliferation?”).

    As suggested in Forden’s report, calls for a regional nuclear-free zone are often code for finding ways to dealing with Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Discussions of a nuclear-free zone would need to directly engage (rather than corner) Israel, which would require Israel to acknowledge its own nuclear status. Given that Jerusalem already feels cornered on various issues, including the 2-state issue, this would be an extremely tricky proposition.
    Moreover, to the extent that nuclear proliferation remains a symptom of actual security concerns, opportunities to seize the moral high ground will not be enough to entice Iran and/or other regional states to expose their capabilities to international scrutiny.

    Of course, this does not discount the potential merits of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Indeed, it would be necessary to address these issues directly if the world is to “work toward zero”.

    Kentaro Ide
    Managing Editor, Iran in the World

    (The views in this comment are mine alone and are not intended to represent the views of the Iran in the World staff, the Simons Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Research, or any other affiliated bodies)

  1. 1 Will Iran’s Nuclear Deception Stand? « Mark Riley Media Trackback on September 25, 2009 at 10:12 am

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