Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Is Iran Running a Bluff?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Is Iran Running a Bluff?

Article excerpt

Did Robert Gibbs let the cat out of the bag?

On Feb. 11, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the world that Iran, unable to get fuel rods from the West for its U.S.-built reactor, which makes medical isotopes, had begun to enrich its own uranium to 20 percent.

From his perch in the West Wing, Gibbs scoffed: "He [Ahmadinejad] says many things, and many of them turn out to be untrue. We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree to which they now say they are enriching."

But wait a minute. If Iran does not "have the capability" to enrich to 20 percent for fuel rods, how can Iran enrich to 90 percent for a bomb?

What was Gibbs implying?

Is he confirming reports that Iran's centrifuges are breaking down or have been sabotaged? Is he saying that impurities, such as molybdenum, in the feed stock of Iran's centrifuges at Natanz are damaging the centrifuges and contaminating the uranium?

What explains Gibbs' confidence? Perhaps this.

According to a report last week by David Albright and Christina Walrond of the Institute for Science and International Security, "Iran's problems in its centrifuge program are greater than expected....Iran is unlikely to deploy enough gas centrifuges to make enriched uranium for commercial nuclear power reactors [Iran's stated nuclear goal] for a long time, if ever, particularly if [U.N.] sanctions remain in force."

Thus, ISIS is saying Iran cannot make usable fuel for the nuclear power plant it is building, and Gibbs is saying Iran lacks the capability to make fuel rods for its research reactor.

Which suggests Iran's vaunted nuclear program is a busted flush.

ISIS insists, however, that Iran may still be able to build a bomb. Yet, to do that, Iran would have to divert nearly all of its low-enriched uranium at Natanz, now under U.N. watch, to a new cascade of centrifuges, enrich that to 90 percent, then explode a nuclear device.

Should Iran do that, however, it would have burned up all its bomb-grade uranium and lack enough low-enriched uranium for a second test. And Tehran would be facing a stunned and shaken Israel with hundreds of nukes and an America with thousands, without a single nuke of its own.

Is Iran running a bluff? And if Gibbs and Albright are right, how long can Iran keep up this pretense of rapid nuclear progress?

Which brings us to the declaration by Ahmadinejad on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which produced this headline in The New York Times: "Iran Boasts of Capacity to Make Bomb Fuel. …

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