(Reuters) – A U.N. watchdog report is expected to show that Iran has expanded its potential capacity to refine uranium in an underground site by at least 30 percent since May, diplomats say, adding to Western worries over Tehran‘s nuclear aims.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due this week to issue its latest quarterly report on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West and Israel suspect is aimed at developing bombs. Tehran denies this.
Language used by some Israeli politicians has fanned speculation that Israel might hit Iran’s nuclear sites before the November U.S. presidential vote. Washington has said there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work, but it could be drawn into any war between the two Middle East foes.
The Vienna-based diplomats, giving details on what they believe the IAEA report will show, said Iran had completed installation of two more cascades – interlinked networks of 174 centrifuges each – since the previous IAEA report in May.
They said Iran may also have added centrifuges in another part of the fortified Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to better protect it against any enemy strikes, but they gave no details.
Fordow, where Iran is refining uranium to a level that takes it significantly closer to weapons-grade material, is built to house roughly 3,000 centrifuges – machines that spin at supersonic speed to increase the fissile concentration.
The May report said Iran had installed a total of 1,064 centrifuges, of which 696 were operating, in some six cascades. The diplomats said Iran has since added at least another 328, a jump of about 30 percent from the May figure, and perhaps more.
Iran says it needs this higher-grade uranium for a medical research reactor in Tehran. It is enriching uranium to lower levels at its main such plant in Natanz, where diplomats say it is also installing more centrifuges.
While the newly added centrifuges at Fordow are not yet operating, the expansion reaffirmed Iranian defiance of international demands to suspend enrichment, which can have both civilian and military uses depending on refinement level.
“There is reason to be concerned by increased tempo of enrichment, the larger stockpile of enriched uranium and, most importantly, the additional centrifuges installed in the deeply-buried facility at Fordow,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute of Strategic Studies think-tank.
It may reinforce the belief in Israel that diplomatic and economic pressure is failing to make the Islamic Republic curb its uranium enrichment program.
Iran denies allegations it seeks a nuclear weapons capability and says all its atom work is for peaceful purposes. It has threatened wide-ranging reprisals if attacked.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday told heads of state from developing countries at a meeting in Tehran that the country has no interest in nuclear weapons but will keep pursuing peaceful nuclear energy.
(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Myra MacDonald)
- Iran expands nuclear capacity in underground bunker: sources: VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has installed more uranium… (reuters.com)
- Iran “expands nuclear capacity underground” (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Netanyahu points to ‘more proof’ that Iran is making progress toward nuclear weapons (timesofisrael.com)
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA | Mon Mar 5, 2012 7:36am EST
(Reuters) – Iran has tripled its monthly production of higher-grade enriched uranium and the U.N. nuclear watchdog has “serious concerns” about possible military dimensions to Tehran‘s atomic activities, the agency’s chief said on Monday.
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also told the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors about the lack of progress in two rounds of talks between the Vienna-based U.N. agency and Tehran this year.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to meet shortly in Washington to discuss Iran, deeply at odds over the timing for possible last-resort military action against Iran’s nuclear program.
Even though Obama offered assurances of stiffened U.S. resolve against Iran before the White House meeting, the two allies remained far apart over explicit nuclear “red lines” that Tehran should not be allowed to cross.
Iran denies suspicions that it is covertly seeking nuclear weapons capability, in part by coordinating efforts to process uranium, test high explosives and revamp a ballistic missile cone to accommodate a nuclear warhead.
But its refusal to curb sensitive atomic work that can have both civilian and military applications has drawn increasingly tough U.N. and Western sanctions against the major oil producer.
During the meetings in the Iranian capital in January and February, Iranian officials stonewalled the IAEA’s requests for access to a military site seen as central to its investigation into the nature of the Islamic state’s nuclear activity.
“The agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” Amano told the closed-door meeting, according to a copy of his speech.
NO CREDIBLE ASSURANCES
The IAEA “is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” he added.
A report by the IAEA to member states last month said Iran was significantly stepping up uranium enrichment, a finding that sent oil prices higher on fears that tensions between Tehran and the West could boil over into military conflict.
Since the IAEA’s previous report in November, Amano said Iran has tripled monthly production of uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent – well above the level usually needed to run nuclear power plants.
Though indicated by the IAEA’s confidential report last month, it was the first time Amano spoke in public about this rapid increase in Iran’s enrichment activities, which has stoked Western and Israeli suspicions about Tehran’s nuclear agenda.
The Islamic Republic says the more highly refined uranium will replenish the dwindling special fuel stocks of a Tehran reactor that produces medicinal isotopes.
But 20 percent enrichment, experts say, also represents most of the technical effort needed to attain the 90 percent threshold required for nuclear explosions.
Much of this work is carried out deep inside a mountain at Iran’s underground Fordow facility to better shield it against military strikes, and further expansion is planned.
Despite intensive discussions with Iran, Amano said, there had been no agreement on a “structured approach” to resolve outstanding issues with its nuclear program during the talks held in January and February.
Iran “did not address the agency’s concerns in a substantive manner,” Amano said.
Making clear, however, that he would keep trying to engage Iran on the issue, he added: “Regarding future steps, the agency will continue to address the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and in a constructive spirit.”
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
- IAEA meets to consider action on Iran’s nuclear programme (guardian.co.uk)
- Iran Holds Air Defense Drills As IAEA Says Iran Blocks Access To Key Nuclear Site (mb50.wordpress.com)
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2012 22:59 -0500
As if the market needed another bizarro catalyst to ramp even higher courtesy of an even more pronounced drop in corporate earnings courtesy of soaring energy costs, that is just what it is about to get following news of further deterioration in the Nash equilibrium in Iran, where on one hand we learn that IAEA just pronounced Iran nuclear talks a failure (this is bad), and on the other Press TV reports that the Iran army just started a 4 day air defense exercise in a 190,000 square kilometer area in southern Iran (this is just as bad). The escalation “ball” is now in the Western court. And if Iraq is any indication, after IAEA talks “failure” (no matter how grossly manipulated by the media), the aftermath is usually always one and the same…
From The Guardian:
The UN nuclear agency has declared its latest inspection visit to Iran a failure, with the regime blocking access to a key site suspected of hosting covert nuclear weapon research and no agreement reached on how to resolve other unanswered questions.
The statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency was issued shortly after an Iranian general warned of a pre-emptive strike against any nation that threatens Iran.
“We engaged in a constructive spirit but no agreement was reached,” the statement quoted IAEA chief Yukiya Amano as saying.
The communique said that Iran did not grant requests by the IAEA mission to visit Parchin, a military site thought to be used for explosives testing related to triggering a nuclear weapon. Amano called this decision “disappointing”. No agreement was reached on how to begin “clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions”, the statement said.
Apparently it is Iran’s fault for seeing right through the IAEA’s track record of being nothing but the catalyst for all out aggression. Here is a reminder why, courtesy of Hans Blix. And with that out of the way, we continue:
The fact that the statement was issued early Wednesday, shortly after midnight and just after the IAEA experts left Tehran, reflected the urgency the agency attached to announcing the failed outcome. The language of the statement clearly if indirectly blamed Tehran for the lack of progress.
We can already see the statements from Clinton, who will do anything to make her transition to head of the World Bank as seamless and as “deserved” as pobssible.
In the meantime, Iran is not playing possum:
Iran’s Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base started the four-day exercises codenamed Tharallah on Monday within an area of 190,000 square kilometers in southern Iran, with the key objective of boosting the country’s air defense near the Persian Gulf and the nation’s Bushehr nuclear power plant.
During the military drills slated in four tactical phases, the Iranian army will test and assess the operation of its surface-to-air and radar equipment, and will collect new data on the procedures.
State-of -the-art radar, artillery and missile systems as well as interceptor fighter aircraft of the Air Force will be used in the military drills.
In the first phase of the drills, the fighter aircraft of the hypothetical enemy launched attacks against local air defense forces as part of an electronic warfare exercise.
Using passive and active sensors and multilevel data collection and communications systems, the air defense forces managed to thwart the mock enemy’s measures promptly and effectively, and safeguard the country’s radar network.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Forces wrapped up another drill codenamed Val Fajr in the central province of Yazd on Monday, to further enhance the combat preparedness of Iranian armed forces.
Why is Iran doing this now?
Iran maintains that the military drills are defensive in nature and meant to convey a message of peace and friendship to regional countries.
Tehran has also sent a public invitation to regional states to conduct joint naval drills with Iranian forces.
Rhetorical questions aside, we hope our readers stocked up on gasoline. Because things are about to get uglier. And by that we mean more expensive. But courtesy of hedonic adjustments, more expensive means cheaper, at least to the US government.
- Iran nuclear talks a failure, says IAEA (guardian.co.uk)
- UN nuclear agency says Iran talks have failed (cbc.ca)
- IAEA Says No Deal With Iran (myfoxny.com)
- Inspectors barred from Iran site (bbc.co.uk)
- BBC News – Iran nuclear row: UN inspectors barred from Iran site (bbc.co.uk)
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA | Mon Feb 6, 2012 12:01pm EST
(Reuters) – After two days of rare and intensive talks in Tehran, senior U.N. nuclear officials may have felt they were finally making headway towards getting Iran to address suspicions that it is bent on developing the ability to make atom bombs.
Then, on the evening before the third and final session of last week’s meetings in the Iranian capital, the visiting U.N. nuclear watchdog delegation was handed an envelope that dealt a blow to any hopes of substantive progress.
According to one Vienna-based diplomat briefed on the discussions, it contained a procedural “new work plan” at odds with the nature of the discussions until then, in which the U.N. experts had tried to focus on concrete steps required by Iran.
In the view of Western officials, the Iranian move was further proof of the kind of stalling tactics Tehran has often used during the decade-long dispute over its nuclear program.
“It is delay. It is talks about talks,” a senior Western envoy said about the Iranian negotiating strategy.
The team from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, was forced to use much of the last day of the January 29-31 meeting to push back against the Iranian initiative.
“The agency had to spend a great deal of time getting over Iranian obfuscation,” said another diplomat. “It wasted a lot of time, at least a day.”
Neither Iran nor the IAEA have commented on the Iranian proposal or given details about it.
But it evoked memories among Western diplomats of an ultimately doomed plan agreed between the IAEA and Tehran in 2007 to resolve “outstanding issues” that failed to allay international doubts about Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
By putting forward a new such proposal, they suspect, Iran was trying once again to drag talks out while pressing ahead with nuclear work Western powers fear is aimed at acquiring the means and technologies needed to build atomic bombs.
“The Iranians kept trying to push that ‘work plan’ and the agency was not going to go there. They had some very frank engagement,” the senior envoy said.
A second round of talks has been slated for later this month but Western diplomats hold out little hope that the February 21-22 meeting in Tehran will fare much better than the previous round.
One diplomat said the January negotiations ended with a draft “discussion paper” listing the main points the IAEA wants Iran to answer, especially allegations about possible military dimensions to its uranium enrichment program.
The talks coincide with soaring tension in the long-running row, with the United States and European Union adopting sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports and the Islamic Republic threatening retaliation by closing the main Gulf oil shipping lane.
IRAN UNDER PRESSURE
The outcome of the IAEA’s meetings in Tehran will be scrutinized in Washington, European capitals and Israel for signs of whether Iran’s leadership may finally be prepared to give ground after a decade of pursuing shadowy nuclear development goals, or whether it remains as defiant as ever.
Many fear a downward spiral towards military conflict and rocketing oil prices if diplomacy and sanctions fail to change the Islamic state’s nuclear course.
The Vienna-based IAEA, tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear arms in the world, is pressing Iran to be transparent.
It wants Iran to explain intelligence findings, detailed in an IAEA report in November, about research and development work pointing to nuclear weapons aims, and grant access to sites, documents and people relevant for its investigation.
Iran has indicated readiness for the first time to answer the agency’s questions but also repeatedly dismissed the allegations as baseless and forged.
It says its drive to stockpile enriched uranium is entirely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity using a future network of nuclear power plants.
The deadlock over the IAEA’s suspicion that Iran is looking into “weaponizing” its nuclear activity dates back over three years.
Nackaerts and his team specifically asked last week for access to the Parchin military site near Tehran, without receiving a clear answer from the Iranian side, diplomats said.
The secretive U.N. agency would not comment on the visit beyond a formal statement in which Director General Yukiya Amano said: “The agency is committed to intensifying dialogue. It remains essential to make progress on substantive issues.”
The IAEA said it explained to Iran its “concerns and identified its priorities, which focus on the clarification of possible military dimensions.”
“The IAEA also discussed with Iran the topics and initial steps to be taken, as well as associated modalities,” it said.
Western diplomats said the statement made clear that there had been little progress on substance, but also raised pressure on Iran to deliver tangible results in the next meeting.
Tehran is in the “game of gaining time,” one of them said.
But at least it would be clear who was to blame if the talks failed, he added: “It is going to be Iran’s responsibility.”
The IAEA may also hope that the Iranian side next time will send senior officials such as Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, to the talks.
Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was the main counterpart in the January meeting. While he is a senior nuclear official, the U.N. agency frequently sees him in Vienna.
“There was nothing achieved on this visit and in fact the agency could not get Iran to engage on possible military dimensions questions at all,” the senior Western envoy said.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
The U.S. Government Funded the Iranian Terrorist Group Which “Found” The Documents Upon Which the Warmongers Are Relying
Submitted by George Washington on 01/15/2012 15:33 –0500
The IAEA report being trumpted as a casus belli contains no new information, but is based on a re-hashing of old, debunked claims stemming from “laptop documents”.
Wikileaks documents reveal that the new IAEA head was heavily backed by the U.S., based upon his promises of fealty to the U.S. Indeed, as we’ve seen in the nuclear energy arena, the IAEA is not a neutral, fact-based organization, but a wholly-captured, political agency.
But where did the documents come from originally?
As Gareth Porter noted in 2008:
The George W. Bush administration has long pushed the “laptop documents” – 1,000 pages of technical documents supposedly from a stolen Iranian laptop – as hard evidence of Iranian intentions to build a nuclear weapon. Now charges based on those documents pose the only remaining obstacles to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declaring that Iran has resolved all unanswered questions about its nuclear programme.
But those documents have long been regarded with great suspicion by U.S. and foreign analysts. German officials have identified the source of the laptop documents in November 2004 as the Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK), which along with its political arm, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), is listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organisation.
And the New York Times, Washington Post and others are reporting that Rudy Giuliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former national security adviser Fran Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey are supporting the MEK as well.
So the terrorist group which “found” the documents is funded by neoconservatives who want to overthrow Iran. What a coincidence!
And as Gareth Porter notes in the above-linked article, the Mossad may have created the documents in the first place:
There are some indications, moreover, that the MEK obtained the documents not from an Iranian source but from Israel’s Mossad.
One thing is clear: the U.S. and its allies have a long history of using forged documents as an excuse for war.
- Report: Israel Engaged in False Flag Operation to Foment Terrorist Attacks Inside Iran (news.firedoglake.com)
- PressTV: ‘IAEA inspectors abetted terrorists’ (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Who’s Running Covert Ops Against Iran? the Obama Administration Protests Too Little. (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- IAEA Said to Agree to Meeting With Iran at End of January (businessweek.com)
- Iranian media call for revenge for scientist killings, as leaders seem to … – Fox News (foxnews.com)
- Iran threatens Israel, U.S. over scientist killing (cnn.com)
- Is America Helping Israel Kill Iranian Scientists? The View from Iran (theatlantic.com)